With WVU announcing on Friday that it would leave the Big East Conference and head for the Big 12 Conference on July 1, 2012, it left the Mountaineers’ men’s soccer program with an uncertain future.
The Big 12 doesn’t offer men’s soccer as one of its sports, so WVU will have to find a new home for one of its fastest-growing non-revenue programs.
“I’m going to make sure we’re in the best situation moving forward,” said WVU head coach Marlon LeBlanc.
Athletic Director Oliver Luck said on Friday that the WVU men’s soccer program would without a doubt continue and that he has pledged to LeBlanc just that.
"We've had a very successful men's soccer program, and I've committed to Coach LeBlanc that we'll absolutely be committed to having and retaining the high quality men's soccer program that we have," Luck said.
Luck discussed two potential options for the men’s soccer team, including joining either the Mid-American Conference or Conference USA.
“Anytime you hear rumors about what’s going to happen, of course you start thinking about the future,” LeBlanc said. “Fortunately, I’ve got a boss who’s committed to the sport and comes from a soccer background, so he was able to squash any worries from the outset.”
LeBlanc is unaware of any conversations with other conferences at this point. It was obvious from Luck’s comments on Friday that he had yet to begin any discussions, as well.
Earlier last week, a C-USA official told BlueGoldNews.com that it would be interested in adding a team like WVU for men’s soccer and that it had the structure in place to do so.
Currently, Southeastern Conference schools Kentucky and South Carolina play men’s soccer in C-USA, as the SEC doesn’t offer men’s soccer.
A MAC official said on Friday that the conference policy regarding membership issues is “to keep those specific membership discussions internal with our member institutions.”
A Big East official told BlueGoldNews.com that West Virginia would not be considered for men’s soccer-only membership. That was before the University filed a lawsuit against the conference on Monday.
“We have to have support to be successful. We have to have good players. We have to have good support staff. All those things are really more important than the conference,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said his pitch to recruits won’t change when WVU is not in the Big East. He tells all recruits when he ends a conversation that “you see what you get” with the program.
“We’ve gotten a lot of questions about it from our recruits and players and their parents. People want to know what we’re going to do, and I just told them that it is what it is, and we’ll make the best of it,” LeBlanc said.
WVU is 10-6-1 this season after defeating No. 12 Notre Dame on the road last weekend. The Mountaineers earned a first-round bye in the Big East tournament, and will play in the second round of the Big East tournament following the finals of the Big East women’s tournament on Sunday at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
LeBlanc admitted on Monday that he wasn’t sure of a timetable for the future. He’s not worried about that right now, either.
“I’ve got to keep my team focused on the Big East quarterfinal this weekend. And I can’t keep them focused if I’m not focused myself,” LeBlanc said. “We’re in the Big East now. We’re in the Big East tomorrow, and we’ll be in the Big East on Sunday when we play. That’s the way I’m going about it until somebody officially moves us somewhere else.”
LeBlanc, since joining the program in 2005, has a 62-37-19 record at WVU. He has taken the Mountaineers to three NCAA tournaments and one Sweet 16. It is likely that WVU will make the NCAA field this year, as well.