We’re on the downward slope toward actual college football, so we’re going to be ramping things up where with our 25 Things Mountaineer Fans Need To Forget series where we trudge through the darkest moments in West Virginia Mountaineer sports history. We’ve already talked about the Boyd 2 Heastie Connection and Mo Claiborne making 60,000 Mountaineer fans go from unhinged to completely silent in a matter of seconds.
Today’s topic is something a little lighter than both of the previous two topics, but a million times more ridiculous. This will be a quick article, but I have a feeling you guys are going to have some fun looking back at this stuff.
Folks, it’s Tuesday at 4:00PM. Let’s head over to The Jerry West Lounge and talk some conference expansion.
As I mentioned in the previous article in this series, the beginning of the 2011 season was one of the most bizarre in recent memory and a large part of that can be attributed to the one topic that swallowed the entire college football world whole: conference expansion and realignment.
West Virginia managed to find its way smack dab in the middle of all the excitement. When the ACC announced the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse on the Sunday before the LSU game, West Virginia fans began to drive themselves insane worrying about the future of our beloved Mountaineers. Where would we end up? Would we be stuck with the remnants of the Big East or would we find ourselves a home in either the ACC or SEC?
Before I dive in any further, let me just say that I have an issue with the generalization of “West Virginia bloggers” when it was in fact “West Virginia message board users” that decided to portray themselves as insiders. Although I wasn’t around The Smoking Musket at the time, I can say with a great amount of confidence that anything reported here was at least vetted with actual sources. I’m also going to say that while I am going to name some names in this article, I’m not entirely doubting the fact that they had legitimate connections close to the West Virginia athletic department. The issue is that these “insiders” were so fast and loose with their information that most of the time it came back to completely embarrass them in the long run.
As the ACC pillaged and plundered the Big East for the second time, it sent an enormous shockwave through the foundation of college football. It looked as though super conferences were on the horizon, and they would cannibalize the Big East and the smaller conferences on the way up. It was time for West Virginia to jump ship, and we were desperate for any information that would give us insight into what the future held.
Before Scout and 247Sports merged and Twitter hit the height of its popularity, the BlueGoldNews.com message board was one of the popular hangouts for Mountaineer fans. During Rich Rodruigez’s flirtations with Alabama in 2006 and his departure for Michigan the following year, a couple users popped up on the BGN boards with plenty of information about the goings on. A lot of their information turned out to be right, so of course this meant everyone turned back to BGN when the conference apocalypse dawned upon us.
It was on the BGN message board that two users in particular took the opportunity to put themselves into the spotlight. Two gentlemen by the names “TheDudeofWV” and “MHVer3” managed to position themselves as THE college football realignment insiders, and it caught the eye of the national media. The only problem was that somehow both men knew all the upcoming moves, yet their information never exactly matched up - which ended up leading to quite a bitter rivalry between the two in the later stages of realignment. While they were not the only “insiders”, they were the most visible and that’s where the infamous “West Virginia bloggers” meme was born.
With West Virginia clinging to life on the sinking Big East, all eyes turned to the south. Rumors began to swirl that SEC commissioner Mike Slive wanted to expand the conference to 14 teams and expand the footprint into some of the neighboring states of the existing members. On September 26, 2011, the SEC announced that the Texas A&M Aggies would be making the jump from the Big 12, leaving one coveted spot open. The West Virginia insiders were quick to spread information that the Mountaineers would be the school to get that spot - some even going as far to say that the deal had been signed and an announcement would be made the following Tuesday evening at 4:00PM from the former Jerry West Lounge in the WVU Coliseum with Alabama coach Nick Saban in attendance.
"...here has been significant talks between the Big 12 and Florida State and Clemson..."— Christopher Lambert (@theDudeofWV) April 5, 2012
Perhaps the most well known instance of “West Virginia bloggers” inside expansion news was the persistent insistence that the Florida State Seminoles and the Clemson Tigers would jump from the ACC to join West Virginia and TCU in the Big 12 or become the 15th & 16th members of the SEC - depending on which insider you chose to believe - because they were tired of playing second fiddle to the Tobacco Road basketball schools. That rumor was dealt a huge blow when the ACC signed their grant of rights, effectively locking up the member schools for the length of the contract.
BYU and UC welcome to the Big12. Still trying to get verification on all sports or FB only.— MHver3 (@MHver3) October 17, 2016
The insiders reared their ugly heads once again in 2016 when the Big 12, once again, decided to rock the boat and test the conference expansion waters. This time around it was for certain that a combination of the BYU Cougars and either the Cincinnati Bearcats, USF Bulls, UCF Knights or Memphis Tigers would be joining the conference to get it back to 12 teams. This one may have actually had some truth to it, as it was well known that the Big 12 began gauging the interest of several schools by asking them to put together a sales pitch. This may have been in anticipation that the conference members would vote Baylor out due to their numerous scandals, but in the end it was all for naught as the Bears didn’t get kicked out and the Big 12 is still a 10 member conference.
And that, folks, is the quick and dirty story about how “West Virginia bloggers” became a meme, giving the college football media at least one thing they can fall back on.
Clemson and West Virginia bloggers are going to have a hard time orchestrating realignment conspiracy theories with that ACC Grant of Rights— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) April 22, 2013
Any word from West Virginia bloggers today? I'm sure there is a presser set up somewhere.— Blogger So Dortch (@BloggerSoDear) December 10, 2012
Rece was just giving a subtle signal to the West Virginia bloggers.— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) October 16, 2014