Shiny Happy People Holding Hands
By Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com, 6/13/00

It has been interesting to see the voting in the latest HokieCentral.com home page poll, which asks the question, "Given any choice, what conference would you like Tech to belong to?"

At the time of this writing (560 votes), there is a virtual (pardon the expression) dead heat among the Big East, the SEC, and the ACC, in that order, with just three and a half percentage points separating the #1 Big East (34.6%) from the #3 ACC (31.1%), with the SEC (32.3%) sandwiched between them.

What's so interesting about all that? Well, last summer, at the height of the ACC expansion talk (triggered, you'll recall, by Doug Doughty writing on-line that the ACC was considering adding the University of Miami), we asked the same question, and the results were vastly different.

Back then, the Big East (15%) trailed the ACC (46%) and the SEC (33%) by a wide, wide margin. Fewer than 1 out of every 6 people voted for the Big East, in voting that was very telling about the prevailing "go to hell" attitude that many Hokie fans had toward the Big East at the time.

Granted, these things are not scientific at all. Exactly what is meant by the question? Are we talking about a 12-team ACC, with Miami and Tech in it, or the current ACC? Are we talking about the current Big East? If Tech went to the SEC, would they get to play football in the super-strong SEC East, or the weaker SEC West?

But given that the question was asked the same way both times, without any further information, you could argue that the same inconsistencies and uncertainties apply in both cases, making the results something you can interpret the same way in both instances, whatever that means. Forgive me, I was not a Statistics major.

There's only one thing that's different from the last time we asked the question and this time, but it's a whopper. Namely, in just over two weeks from now, the Hokies will call the previously reviled Big East home for all sports. The impending membership in the Big East was not settled last summer.

But is that all that's different? Not really. There are other things, more minor than that, that have changed and that affect the voting:

  • UConn will play Big East football starting in 2005, meaning that the conference will have a power base squarely on the football side, not the basketball side. This remedies one of the conference's many shortcomings -- a major one.
  • Tech played in the national championship game, proving that the Hokies can indeed win a national championship from the Big East Conference, a condition that was previously unknown.

Sure, there are other peripheral issues, but those are the biggies. The Hokies will now be in the Big East for all sports, the Big East is moving in the right direction, and yes, Tech can achieve all their goals from that very same Big East. Hokie fans didn't know any of that last summer, and now they know it all.

Back then, the prospect of the Big East imploding as the ACC snatched off two or more teams seemed very real indeed, although in the end, it wasn't. Not for now, anyway, and while the ACC froze with indecision last summer, the Big East moved boldly to shore up its flanks and now seems much stronger, although it has a long way to go.

But conference moves are rarely made in the blink of an eye (unless you're the WAC), and it will take the Big East many more years to get to where it needs to be. You don't drop Temple and get Notre Dame to join for football, and split from the basketball-only schools overnight, you know. Those things take years. The only question is if the Big East will be able to reach its goals (or at least, what should be its goals) before Duke, Wake Forest and Maryland get out of everyone else's way in the ACC and agree to expand.

This race between the Big East (strengthening its makeup) and the ACC (finally deciding to expand) will be an interesting contest that will be decided in the next five or ten years, and perhaps there won't be any one winner or loser. Perhaps, when this is all settled, the 23 teams that comprise the Big East and ACC will collide head on at top speed, and only 12 or 16 teams will survive in a new superconference that makes ABC/ESPN squeal with delight and pony up the money.

Till then, the well-read and knowledgeable Hokie fans that visit HokieCentral.com aren't exactly giving the Big East a ringing endorsement with their 34.6% vote, but it sure beats the off-the-scale, oops-I-meant-to-vote-for-something-else 15% of last summer. And it vaults the Big East from a distant third to first in Hokie fans' hearts.

So it appears that Tech fans no longer have to drink a whole twelve-pack before agreeing to spend the night with the Big East. These days, it only takes a six-pack.

And just wait until the Hokies have logged a season or two of Big East basketball, and the excitement returns to Cassell Coliseum. The Big East will start pulling away from the ACC and SEC, and yes, we'll run this poll each summer to check.

Will Stewart is the founder and General Manager of HokieCentral.com.  He writes the News and Notes section, game previews, and game reports for HC, and he contributes a column when time permits.

          

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