ESPN-The Big 12 has told West Virginia it will be accepted into the conference pending formal approval, a Big 12 source said. Earlier Tuesday, multiple media reports indicated West Virginia was headed from the Big East to the Big 12.
West Virginia will be accepted into the conference as a replacement for Missouri, which the conference believes is departing for the SEC. However, according to the source, West Virginia’s acceptance into the Big 12 is not contingent on Missouri leaving.
The Big 12 is adding West Virginia because of its football strength, having finished in the BCS standings of the nation’s top 25 teams in four of the past five years, as well as the men’s basketball program having reached the NCAA tournament six of the past seven years.
Wow, first the ACC in 2005, then the ACC in 2011, and now the Big 12. The Big East just can’t catch a break. Not only is West Virginia being targeted, but Louisville is being considered as well. The New York Times reported:
“A late push by Louisville has put political pressure on the Big 12 and opened the possibility of Louisville’s being the university that is admitted instead of West Virginia. Two people with direct knowledge of the situation said that lobbying by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, including to David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and a former senator, helped slow West Virginia’s admittance to the Big 12.”
I find these potential moves to be odd. Louisville, a mid-major until 2004, has had some very good seasons, but has struggled following the departure of head coach Bobby Petrino after the 2006 season. Not a bad program, but not one that I would expect the Big 12 to be salivating over.
It’s a similar situation with West Virginia. In terms of football prowess, the Big 12 seems to be a good fit for West Virginia, who can contend for a national championship almost every season. But that’s where the similarities end. Texas Tech Head Coach Tommy Tuberville expressed reservations about the distance between West Virginia and the other Big 12 schools earlier today.
This is ultimately the same issue that I have. The jet age may have started in the 1950s, allowing for easy nationwide travel, but college football started long before that. Rivalries and conferences have traditionally sprung up between teams located semi-close to one another (hence the term “cross-town” or “in-state” rivals). Taking a team from the Southeast and putting it in a Southwest conference makes no sense. West Virginia will almost certainly see its traditional rivalries with Pitt (Backyard Brawl), Marshall (Friends of Coal Bowl) and Syracuse (Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy Game) disappear. Realignment can be a good thing, when done right. Either or both of these schools to the SEC or ACC would make sense. But unless you think the idea of Boise State in the Big East sounds good, WVU going to the Big 12 does not.
EDIT: USA Today Reports that it now appears that due to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s intercession on Louisville’s behalf, West Virginia’s future as a Big 12 school is in question. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is pursuing an investigation. This story will no doubt be very interesting as it develops…