Although expressing a deep desire for six private schools in the West Virginia Conference to stay, two presidents of schools who aren't leaving say the administrations of those institutions must decide what's best for their schools.
"I don't want anyone else telling our school how to run our athletic programs, and I sure don't feel I have the right to tell them what to do," Salem-Teikyo President Dr. Ronald Ohl said. "They've got to do what they feel is best for each of their institutions."
West Virginia State President Hazo Carter concurred.
"I'd have to say I agree with that statement," Carter said. "Each school must decide what's best for them."
One of the major issues the private schools -- Alderson-Broaddus, University of Charleston, Davis & Elkins, Ohio Valley College, West Virginia Wesleyan and Wheeling Jesuit -- have brought forward is that of capping scholarships.
"This has been a major issue for us for nearly a decade," A-B President Stephen Markwood said. "We've had this brought to vote three times over the past six or seven years, and each time it's been voted down.
"For us, this is very much an economic issue."
Carter, who is Vice Chairman of the Conference Board of Directors, doesn't buy that way of thinking, however.
"When we voted to go into NCAA Division II, we did so as a conference, and it was known then we would go by the capping guidelines of the division," Carter said. "They knew what they were getting into.
"As far as the economics go, they've competed for decades in the league and haven't been at much, if any, at a competitive disadvantage."
But Markwood was adamant in his beliefs.
"When we give out a scholarship, it's for nearly $20,000-a-year," Markwood said. "A state school can give one for about $4,500-a-year, plus get money back from the state which makes it about $2,000-a-year.
"Eventually, if there isn't some kind of relief for us on the capping issue, we won't be able to compete on the floor or fields of athletics."
Dr. Ohl was insistent that when the league switched from NAIA to NCAA Division II status, the guidelines were already in place, and each school knew what they were.
"If you want to compete on a national level, you can't cap scholarships," Ohl said. "At Salem, we prefer to give men's basketball the maximum available and women's basketball close to the maximum.
"Most of our other sports are below, or we give no scholarships at all in them. Like I said, this is something that should be up to each institution."
Salem-Teikyo gives 10 full scholarships for men's basketball compared to six for Alderson-Broaddus. Of course, A-B's volleyball team gets seven.
"The presidents of the schools thinking about leaving drew up a sophisticated formula on how to cap each sport," Ohl said. "But the league voted it down each time.
"The majority of our conference doesn't want it, and that's basically how it is."
Markwood said the formula, for the most part, came down to the average amount of scholarships NCAA D-II schools around the nation give in each sport.
An example would be eight for men's basketball, which would mean schools like Salem-Teikyo and a few others in the league would have to give up two scholarships.
"When we decided to go to Division II a few years back, it was my understanding that we would do our best to be competitive at the D-II level," Carter said. "I certainly want to give our athletes a chance to compete for the national championship.
"That would only be fair to our athletes, coaches and fans."
With the battle lines clearly drawn, it appears only a matter of time before the six private schools leave a conference full of tradition, pride and prestige.
The league's presidents will meet this week during the conference basketball tournament in Charleston. Something then could be worked out. If not, it's likely the schools will vote yes to form a new league with other private schools from Pennsylvania and Ohio.
But don't look for the West Virginia Conference to fold.
Several schools from neighboring states already have expressed interest in joining the league. Pitt-Johnstown, a consistent member of the East Region men's ratings, appears to be the most likely candidate to move the league to the minimum number of 10. The University of Virginia-Wise, which importantly also plays football, is also a likely candidate.
"I don't think anyone will have to worry about the West Virginia Conference not being around in a few years," Carter said. "Our league is 75 years old, and we plan to be here for another 75 and more."