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Chuck Landon: Conference shakeup not looking good for Marshall

May. 22, 2010 @ 11:30 PM

We all knew this day would come.

It has been on the calendar since 2003.

That's when the ACC raided the Big East, taking Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.) and Boston College, prompting a Big East raid on Conference USA for Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida.

So, yes, we all realized that sooner or later conference realignments were going to happen again. And we suspected the Big East would once again be involved.

But nobody guessed this potential change would have the possibility to be so cataclysmic and so far-reaching.

The Big Ten sits poised to pull the trigger on the biggest shakeup in NCAA conference history. It will affect everyone ... including Marshall.

The obvious first question is ... when?

According to knowledgeable industry sources, the controversial reconfiguration could commence as soon as August.

The key to the shakeup is whether the Big Ten opts to expand to 16 or become a mega-conference with 20 members. The linch-pin is Texas. If the Big Ten can entice Texas to join, it will expand to 20 and become the biggest power-broker in collegiate athletics.

That will ignite an arms race with such strong leagues as the SEC and Pac-10 looking to expand to keep pace.

The fallout will be more far-reaching than any volcano in Iceland could spew.

Let's start with the Big East. The Big Ten is expected to take three out of a foursome including Pitt, Syracuse, Connecticut and Rutgers. UConn appears to be the odd-man out.

Then, the Big East will conduct its own raid. Again, according to industry sources with knowledge of the situation, the first choice will be UCF from Conference USA. Second pick? Temple. The third choice will be another C-USA school, Memphis.

Don't be surprised by the Temple selection. The Owls of today are not the ragtag athletic program that got booted from the Big East. In fact, Temple recently gave both its head football and head basketball coaches five-year contract extensions. Besides, Temple delivers the lucrative Philadelphia television market.

As for Memphis, some folks will be surprised UM gets the nod over East Carolina. Don't be. Memphis is a far better choice. Besides a much larger television market, Memphis offers a top-flight basketball program that will offset the loss of Pitt and Syracuse. As it turns out, hiring former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese as a consultant was a smart move by Memphis.

So, where does all this leave Marshall?

Wringing its hands.

Although Marshall knew this day would come, the school has done virtually nothing to position itself to take advantage of the realignments.

Think about it. What has Marshall done to improve its athletic profile during the last six years? Granted, the athletic program is on the upswing now since president Steve Kopp is allowing new athletic director Mike Hamrick to run the department.

But, what about the previous five years?

That's when Kopp's lack of vision was so damaging. He simply didn't have a plan.

Go back to the days before Kopp arrived. Was Marshall more highly regarded than UCF? Yes. Temple? Yes. Memphis? Yes.

Yet, now, those three have passed Marshall by and are in line to join the Big East.

What's Marshall in line for?

A handout.

Charity is about all Marshall can hope for because it simply wasn't proactive.

The unfortunate truth is Marshall doesn't have any options because it didn't create any windows of opportunity.

There are movers and there are shakers.

With the conference reconfigurations looming, Marshall is shaky.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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