MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck remembers looking up at a depleted Big East last fall and seeing only five teams, well short of anything resembling the conference the Mountaineers signed up to play in back in 1991.
The Big East floundered in a world filled with bigger, better leagues playing championship games, and as West Virginia enters the Big 12, Luck wants to learn from the mistakes of the Mountaineers' former league.
"My recommendation would be to look long and hard at moving up, whether it’s to 11 or 12, particularly when you look at how big the SEC is, how big the ACC is going to be, the number that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 are at," Luck told ESPN.com this week. "I think it would be wise to take a long hard look at that because there is some strength in numbers."
When Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 in the summer of 2010, the league built itself around playing a season of football to find "one true champion," decided by round-robin play that required the conference to move from eight conference games to nine.
It produced an outright champion in 2011 when Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma on the season's final weekend, but it might have side effects in the future that the league's members won't find quite so marketable.
"Ten is the ideal number for fair and equitable conference play, no question about it, but having said that, I’m not sure that you want to stay at 10, given where everybody else is," Luck said.
You don't have to look far to see the short list of teams rumored to be on the Big 12's list. Fellow Big East member Louisville was under consideration last fall and would seem to top it.
Luck declined to offer his thoughts on who he favored as the league's possible new members, but leaned on lessons learned in the rocky road that led West Virginia into the Big 12.
"My message to my fellow ADs -- and I’m the new kid on the block, so I haven’t really said too much -- but I said to the group that I think the Big East was complacent by remaining at eight (teams)," he said, "and that doesn’t really give you much room for error if somebody does want to pick up and leave, as happened with Pitt and Syracuse."