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Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Big East, WVU parting was inevitable

By Andrea Adelson

When West Virginia defiantly announced in October that it would leave for the Big 12 as soon as possible, did anybody really think the Big East would be able to stop it?

We are talking about the Big East, after all, a league that never seems to win. A league that seems to get taken advantage of at almost every turn. There is a reason the Big East has the reputation of being a league that gets kicked around. West Virginia just did it again.

The Big East should have had the advantage in this fight, what with the conference bylaws that specifically state any departing school must wait 27 months before leaving. Allowing TCU out of the league without a wait had something to do with West Virginia pushing forward. But there are clear rules that every member of the Big East agreed to follow, rules that did not apply to TCU as an incoming member.

Oliver Luck
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is looking forward to the school's move to the Big 12.
Pitt and Syracuse had no problem agreeing to abide by the rules when they announced they were leaving for the ACC back in September. West Virginia had problems, because it was inconvenient. And the way the school went on the offensive from the outset essentially sealed the eventual settlement that was announced Tuesday.

West Virginia filed its lawsuit first, claiming the Big East had failed in its responsibilities to remain a viable conference. It wasn't too long before the Mountaineers accepted Big 12 membership when athletic director Oliver Luck made this comment during a television interview Oct. 1:
“Let’s be honest, the reason TCU wants to be in this league so badly is that they think it’s an easier path to the national championship than it is going through Norman, Okla., or Austin, Texas, or Stillwater, Okla., and playing some of their regional schools out there. So we’ve got some quality schools that are very interested in getting involved, including both Air Force and Navy. It’s no secret there. I think both of those institutions are academically excellent, very important nationally and also, I think we all can agree, they play some pretty good football.

“In fact, I would trade Air Force or Navy for Syracuse every day of the week in terms of the quality of the football program. No disrespect, but that’s just an observation I think most would agree with who understand football.”

TCU officially left the Big East on Oct. 10 for the Big 12. West Virginia bolted Oct. 28. You cannot mean to tell me the departure of TCU was the tipping point for West Virginia. TCU had never played a down of football in the Big East.

The argument was a convenient one to make in court. But it also was the first one to be filed, clearly giving West Virginia the upper hand. Its arguments, whether they were thin or not, hit first. The Big East filed its own suit in Rhode Island shortly thereafter, arguing about its specific bylaws that should be followed.

Bylaws, shmy-laws, right? The Big 12 then went on the offensive in the form of interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who said, "The Big East gets on planes and flies all over the country inviting other schools. But they raise hell when West Virginia wants to come to the Big 12?"

Luck made it clear in several more interviews that he didn't care what the Big East did and his school was outta here. Then West Virginia went ahead and canceled its nonconference game against Florida State to make way for nine Big 12 games.

The Big East's response -- nada. The league remained mum on the subject, as West Virginia and the Big 12 talked freely. Commissioner John Marinatto declined to answer questions because of the litigation. Athletic directors refused to comment publicly, for fear of speaking out of turn. Privately, some are upset about the way the entire situation has been handled, firmly believing West Virginia had taken advantage of the Big East once again.

It is obvious that West Virginia did not want to be in the Big East a second longer. But this was not about the Big East holding onto West Virginia because of some vendetta against the school. It was about holding a team to bylaws it drafted and agreed to, in large part to fill out its schedule and not have gaping holes everywhere.

Yes, there was a domino effect when Missouri did to the Big 12 what West Virginia just did to the Big East. But in the conference pecking order, you kinda figured the Big 12 would win this fight.