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Expansion talk underscores renewed Maryland-West Virginia rivalry

By Don Markus

There's been a lot of discussion lately coming out of College Park and Morgantown how the renewal of the rivalry between Maryland and West Virginia is great for both schools, given their proximity. Little did we know that it could just be a precursor to an exodus of schools from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

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Though the Mountaineers have not been mentioned yet, don't you think it's just a matter of time? If Syracuse and Pittsburgh both depart, as has been widely reported today, it makes perfect sense for West Virginia to do the same.

It might even make more sense given that the Mountaineers have even more to offer than either the Orange or the Panthers in terms of football and men's basketball.

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ACC commissioner John Swofford has been quoted as saying that it doesn't matter whether the ACC expands to 14 or 16, but in this brave new world of college sports where bigger suddenly means better, I'd be shocked if the ACC doesn't max out as the Southeastern Conference and newly named Pac-12 (which started out as the Pac-8) seemed destined to do.

There has been speculation that the ACC has been exploring inviting Texas and its new Longhorn Network on ESPN to come East. If Texas comes along with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, that would bring the ACC to 15 schools and the search for a 16th would heat up.

Though geographical boundaries seem to mean less and less - with Colorado joining the Pac-12 and Texas Christian University set to join the Big East - it makes more sense for West Virginia to be invited rather than, say, Kansas.

Consider this: the Terps and Mountaineers are scheduled to play the next six years. While that might not be great news for Maryland since West Virginia had won five straight going into today's game, it's one less game for the ACC to try to fit into the schedule once the league expands.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto is at Byrd Stadium today, though his seat in the press box at Byrd Stadium remains conspicuously empty. West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck declined comment when approached by reporters.

One thing I've learned over the year is that the less said, the more likely the scenario.

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