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Poll: West Virginians sanguine on college sports shift, split between ACC or Big 12 for WVU

Realignment has rocked college athletics, but West Virginians seem fairly chill.

The latest version of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll shows that 39 percent of respondents say the additions of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference is good for college sports. Thirty-five percent say it is not good. Twenty-seven percent said they are not sure yet.

There are some gender differences in those assessments. Only 33 percent of male respondents said the changes will be good while 48 percent of female respondents said the changes will be good.

There were also age differences.

Among respondents aged 18 to 34, 46 percent said the sports changes would be good. And 53 percent of ages 35 to 54 had a positive view.

But 42 percent of respondents between 55 and 54 said the college sports shift is bad. And 55 percent of respondents age 65 and up said its not good.

Texas and Oklahoma, the big players in the Big 12, officially announced July 30 that they will move to the SEC. 

The Big 12, where most West Virginia University athletic programs compete, will have only eight members when Texas and Oklahoma depart for the SEC.

Sports fans

A separate question meant to get a feel for how closely poll respondents follow college sports showed a broad mix — with most being fairly casual fans.

Most, 30 percent, said they follow college sports somewhat closely. The next largest group, 26 percent, said not very closely. Twenty-five percent said not closely at all. And the smallest group, 20 percent, said very closely.

That question helped provide some context for how people are viewing the shifting landscape of college sports. It was not used to screen out non-sports fans or lukewarm sports fans for the more specific questions.

Overall, the MetroNews West Virginia Poll surveyed 400 registered voters August 20 to 25.

Best conference for WVU

Another question asked what conference would be best for West Virginia University considering the current changes.

Rex Repass

“What is the fans’ choice for where West Virginia should land?” said Rex Repass, president of Research America, which conducts the West Virginia Poll.

Respondents were almost evenly split between moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference (31 percent) and remaining in the Big 12 (29 percent).

There were other options for respondents to select, with lesser degrees of interest.

Fourteen percent favored moving to the Big 10. Eight percent said move to the Southeastern Conference. And 4 percent favored a move to the American Athletic Conference.

“We gave them a lot of choices, and we looked at the analytics in this various ways. But I think sports fans are landing on two conferences, staying in the Big 12 and adding new schools. That’s secondary to moving to the ACC but not by as much as you might think.

“Now if other teams start moving to conferences from the Big 12, that will of course make a difference and the Big 12 won’t be as attractive if additional schools move, and the ACC might jump to the top by a significant margin.”

Reports surfaced late this week that four leading candidates for Big 12 expansion include Brigham Young University, University of Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston.

“Of course, the Big 12 who knows what’s going to happen,” Repass said. “Who do they add or where do other schools go? Where do schools in the Big 12 land?”

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