<
>

West Virginia to Big 12?

10/25/2011

It appears the Big East is close to losing yet another school.

West Virginia will be accepted to the Big 12 once there is formal approval, a source told Joe Schad of ESPN, and that could happen as early as Tuesday. The Mountaineers would replace Missouri, widely expected to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

During a meeting of the Big 12 board of directors Monday, Missouri did not notify the league that it planned to league. But school chancellor Brady Deaton issued a statement to KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo., that said there were no delays in its steps toward leaving the Big 12 but issues had to be worked out first.

If West Virginia does in fact leave the Big East, the departure could be be a crippling blow for the conference's hopes to hang onto its AQ status. The Mountaineers are the flagship football program for a league that would be left with just five football playing schools in the wake of losing Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, and TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12. Of those five, Rutgers would be the only one left from the original members that began football league play in 1991.

The Big East would still plan to expand to 12 by bringing in Boise State, Air Force, SMU, Houston, Navy, UCF and one other program. But 1) would that be enough to hang onto AQ status and 2) what would be the incentive for those schools to join a league that just lost its strongest football team?

West Virginia would be subject to paying a $5 million exit fee should it leave before another team joins the Big East, when the fee would ratchet up to $10 million. One would also expect the Mountaineers to be held to the same 27-month waiting period Pitt and Syracuse are being held to before moving on.

What is particularly interesting is the shift in the Big 12's thinking on who to bring into the conference. Several weeks ago it appeared Louisville would be the front-runner to join. But the superior football program at West Virginia apparently made a big difference.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was asked about the potential of moving to the Big 12 during his news conference Tuesday.

"I don't have any dealings with that," he said. "If I had an opinion, I don't even know who I'd call. If I call (athletic director) Oliver (Luck) and (president) Dr. (James) Clements they'd probably laugh at me and say, 'You need to worry about Rutgers,' which is 100 percent true."