Big 12's focus can shift to future with WVU

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
12:30
PM ET
Finally.

Right?

West Virginia accepted an invitation to the Big 12 back in October, and at a later news conference assured everyone it would be joining the Big 12 for the 2012 season, despite a clear requirement in the Big East bylaws to give the league 27 months' notice before leaving.

Everybody has their price.

The Big East's is apparently $20 million, more than double what it cost Nebraska ($9-plus million) and triple what it cost Colorado ($6-plus million) to leave the Big 12 in the summer of 2010. Texas A&M and Missouri's exit fees are still being negotiated.

West Virginia offered months of assurances that it would be free from dueling lawsuits with its now-former league. The Big 12 agreed and felt confident enough to give television networks a schedule with the Mountaineers on it, which was released publicly today.

It might feel a little breezy around Big 12 country today. Take a deep breath. Enjoy a sigh of relief.

Disaster avoided. Great football program welcomed.

Officially.

The past two years have been, uh, turbulent for the Big 12. Four of the league's 12 members bolted to other conferences -- Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 -- over a period of 17 months, trimming a proud league and making expansion a necessity.

For their replacements, the Big 12 turned to the Big East.

TCU hadn't officially joined the conference, and its untangling was much simpler.

West Virginia, though, joined the league as a football member in 1991 and had enjoyed full membership since 1995. The divorce was messy, but for the Big 12, it was the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift.

Finally, the conference can move forward. For once, the Big 12 played the part of poacher and not the poached.

The league's members are all committed and granted their media rights to the league for six years. Here's more on what that means, but essentially it ensures that teams in the Big 12 are valuable to the Big 12 and only the Big 12.

Anyone else feel that? And by that, I mean nothing? The ground underneath the Big 12 has finally stopped shifting. Fans can stop wondering who's in and who's out.

Expansion seems highly, highly unlikely. Louisville, Cincinnati and BYU loom outside the Big 12's gates, but the league must be assured that any member that joins won't cause the 10 current members' slices of the financial pie to grow any thinner. TCU's and West Virginia's admittance was about bringing in Top 25 programs with BCS success more than admitting a team with a huge fan base, though the Mountaineers possess both.

If any of the Big 12's three most obvious options had those things, they'd likely already have joined the Big 12.

Contraction, at least for the next near-decade, is a shade away from impossibility.

The Big 12 can finally take its mind off its on-field drama and get back to focusing its attention toward on-field results. That wouldn't be a bad idea for a league that's been shut out of the BCS National Championship Game for two consecutive seasons, something that's happened just once (2006-07) since 1999.

Coaches recruiting, especially at West Virginia, can stop answering parents' awkward questions about which league their sons will be playing in by the end of their careers.

For the foreseeable future, the conference is done changing.

For the Big 12, that's a welcome change.

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