It was only one word, but the speaker, Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson, believed in it and supported what it meant as much as any he had uttered in his professional life.
The word was “NO” — maybe the most emphatic “NO” I have heard in my life (and, believe me, I have heard it more often than I care to remember).
Pederson did not explain his answer, because there was no need. It was in response to my question about Pitt possibly considering paying more than the required $5 million Big East exit fee to flee to the ACC.
Even if it means playing in a watered-down Big East during the 2012 football season (more on that later).
He didn’t have to explain it or say it more than once.
Pederson, of course, was speaking for Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and the board of trustees, who believe there are better uses for their money. Good for them.
Pitt desperately wants to leave the Big East, but not at the price West Virginia had to pay.
Pitt is taking a noble stance, but it’s not a difficult one to take. The ACC is willing to wait for Pitt, even if it can’t get there until 2014. The Big 12 — the only conference offering WVU a safe haven from the chaotic Big East — was not.
That’s why there was the back-and-forth litigation and the ensuing $20 million payment to the Big East that allows WVU to join the Big 12 in time for the 2012-2013 school year.
It’s a good move for West Virginia football, which will welcome either Texas or Oklahoma to Morgantown every year. Sure beats UConn and Cincinnati.
But Pitt’s situation is not without problems.
The 2012 home football schedule does not look to be especially attractive. Along with the previously scheduled games at Heinz Field against Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Louisville, Pitt is looking for two more home games — and one will be against an FCS team on the level of Maine or New Hampshire.
The sixth game?
I have heard rumors about an additional game against a Big East opponent that won’t count in the league standings. After all, WVU’s departure leaves a hole in every remaining Big East team’s schedule. It’s an easy solution, but not the best one.
At this late date — about a month before the start of spring practice and prime ticket-selling time — there are few options for Pitt.
Several schools across the country are looking for a 12th game, but everybody wants a home game. That’s why Florida State, which had its game against West Virginia canceled due to the Mountaineers’ move to the Big 12, is not an option for Pitt.
Florida State, like Pitt, wants a home game. Five is not enough.
The best scenario is for the Big East, which has vowed to help Pitt out of its dilemma, to woo Boise State with all those West Virginia millions and get it to enter the Big East now — a year earlier than previously planned.
That would leave Pitt with a decent home schedule — Boise State, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Louisville (plus two cupcakes). Not ideal, but it’s better than a third cupcake or a second Syracuse game.
Like it or not, that’s the price of moving from one conference to another.