Big 12 adding WVU, will stay 10 strong
The Big 12 welcomed West Virginia from the Big East and bid goodbye to Missouri before the Tigers even had a chance to finalize their move to the Southeastern Conference.
Now that the poaching of the Big East seems to be over, the beleaguered league is not backing down. It has been busy courting six schools and says it was braced for the latest loss. And despite what the Big 12 says, the Big East plans to keep West Virginia for two more years -- just as it has vowed to keep Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014.
The latest round of conference realignment appears to be winding down, but tug-o-war over who goes where when likely will take a while to sort out.
More On West Virginia's Move
There is a disagreement between the Big East and West Virginia over the Mountaineers' exit terms, but that was just one of the key bullet points from Friday's teleconference, writes David Ubben. Blog
The latest blow to the Big East will be tough for it to absorb. Possible additions are out there, but Andrea Adelson examines whether any combo of potential new members make up for the loss of Cuse, Pitt and WVU. Blog
Hey SportsNation, is West Virginia a better football addition to the Big 12 than TCU? Can the Big East survive without West Virginia? What will Boise State do? Vote!
The Big 12 completed its work Friday by adding West Virginia to become its easternmost member, joining Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa State.
The Big 12 said it expects to have 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, listing West Virginia but not Missouri, which is expected to complete its move to the SEC any day now.
"I wouldn't say that there won't be further expansion," interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said on a conference call Friday evening. "But our mission was ... to move forward with 10 teams at this point. That doesn't mean that there wouldn't be further consideration. But right now, we've got our house in order. We've got everybody signed up. We're looking forward to a very aggressive conference."
Ames, Iowa, is the closest Big 12 campus to Morgantown, W.Va., at 870 miles away, but that hardly matters. The Mountaineers bring a football program that has consistently been ranked in the Top 25 in recent years, and that's what counts most when it comes time to sell TV rights.
In April, the conference signed a 13-year TV deal with Fox worth $1.17 billion that kicks in next year and was based upon the league having 10 members.
The Big 12 leaders voted to add West Virginia, rather than closer Big East rival Louisville, on Friday morning.
"The addition of West Virginia, while expanding the reach of the Big 12, brings an impressive institution with esteemed academics and a proud athletic tradition into the Conference. This is another step in building a strong foundation for the future of the Big 12," said Oklahoma State University president Burns Hargis, the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.
West Virginia is one of the founding members of the Big East's football conference, created in 1991. Of the eight original members, only Rutgers remains.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for WVU athletics, our fans and the state of West Virginia," football coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Having coached in the Big 12 before, I appreciate the excitement, passion and expectations associated with the conference, and I have no doubt that WVU athletics will be a great addition to the Big 12."
The Big East is trying to reconfigure itself as a 12-team football league and has been pitching itself to six schools, including Boise State. Now it will need seven to get to 12, though maybe not for a couple years.
While the Big 12's statement said West Virginia will begin competing in the 2012-13 athletic season, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said the Mountaineers will be staying in the Big East for two more seasons.
"West Virginia is fully aware that the Big East Conference is committed to enforcing the 27-month notification period for members who choose to leave the conference," he said in a statement.
West Virginia president James Clements said the university's focus is on next summer's conference transition, although there will be discussions with the Big East.
"Our intent is clearly July 1 we'll be a member of the Big 12," Clements said.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced last month they would join the ACC, and Marinatto has been adamant about saying the Big East plans to hold them for two more seasons.
ACC commissioner John Swofford told Katz that the ACC was ready to take Pitt and Syracuse as soon as the two could join the conference.
Source: Big East Departure Rule 'Airtight'
The Big East was surprised that West Virginia and the Big 12 announced their intentions to join the conference next season, according to a Big East source.
The conference realizes that dropping to seven teams for next season would be highly problematic and that the 27-month departure is an "airtight rule" and that violating it would be at the "legal risk" of the school and Big 12, according to a source.
The Big East plans to announce Central Florida, Houston and SMU as future members of the conference, likely in 2013, as early as Tuesday, the source said. Navy and Air Force are being more deliberate and methodical in the process, but the conference is hopeful both soon will follow, along with Boise State.
The conference has statistics it believes shows those six teams in addition to Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati would qualify the conference as a continued automatic qualifier for the BCS. As a 12th member, the schools under discussion include BYU, Army, Temple, East Carolina and Memphis. BYU would be part of a logical Western Division of the Big East.
The Big East believes it would qualify for the BCS because of the depth of the football success of proposed teams in terms of Top 25 appearances and an overall lack of traditional bottom-feeding schools.
While some may suggest an independent school like Navy or Air Force could be available as early as next season, a conference official warned that those schools are committed to large schedules for next season that would create complications as challenging as adding a school from a conference that has exit fee and timeline complications.
-- Joe Schad, ESPN college football reporter
A source with knowledge of Syracuse's situation told Katz on Friday night that the Orange were miffed about West Virginia's potential to get out of the Big East for next season.
The source said Syracuse would want to get into the ACC with Pitt for next season, and that Syracuse had knowledge of a tentative 14-team ACC men's basketball schedule for 2012-13 with Pitt and Syracuse in the league.
TCU was on its way to the Big East, set to join in 2012, before being diverted to the Big 12 earlier this month to take the place of Texas A&M, which was first to make the jump from the Big 12 to the SEC.
The Big East can't hold the Horned Frogs because they never started competing, but it does expect to receive a $5 million exit fee from them, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia.
Big East presidents two weeks ago agreed to raise the league's exit fee to $10 million, but not until it had received commitments from one of its two main expansion targets -- Air Force or Navy.
West Virginia will not be on the hook for the doubled exit fee but clearly it will cost something for the Mountaineers to start playing in the Big 12 next season. Same goes for Pitt and Syracuse and the ACC.
Clements said West Virginia wired half of the $5 million exit fee to the Big East on Friday. The other half will be sent when the school actually leaves.
It appeared earlier in the week that the Big 12 had settled on West Virginia as its replacement for Missouri. But Louisville briefly re-entered the picture, and the Mountaineers' invitation to the Big 12 was put on hold.
"We felt very confident and comfortable with our position where we were," West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said. "I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't say that we had a little bit of nervousness. We're just glad it's been finalized."
In the end the extra time didn't pay off for the Cardinals.
"I'm not certain how everything went down, but they fought a good battle and won," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said.
The Big 12, even before landing that big TV deal, distributed more revenue ($137 million) last year to its members than the Big East ($113), which will begin negotiating new TV deals next year.
"The Big 12 is a perfect fit for West Virginia," Clements said.
"It's a great day to be a Mountaineer," West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin told The Associated Press.
The decision by the Big 12 caps a strange week of conference realignment that included West Virginia officials on Tuesday preparing a press release and planning a news conference to announce its conference switch, then being told later that day to put the brakes on those plans.
Louisville made a late push for inclusion that reportedly involved a phone call from Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Louisville alum, to Big 12 officials.
"He lobbied for us, of course he did, as did many other people," Jurich said.
That set off Manchin, who threatened Wednesday a Senate investigation if it were found that another lawmaker had stood in the way of the Mountaineers' move.
Then late Thursday night, the SEC inadvertently posted on its website that Missouri was joining the league. The conference said no agreement has been reached with the school, but it was yet another sign it's just a matter of time before the Tigers follow Texas A&M.
Now, the focus shifts to the Big East and how it will rebuild. The plan is to add Boise State, Navy and Air Force as football-only members and SMU, Houston and Central Florida as all-sports members.
"This move by West Virginia does not come as a surprise," Marinatto said. "League officials, members of our conference and the candidate schools to whom we have been talking were aware of this possibility. We have taken West Virginia's possible departure into account as we have moved forward with our realignment plans."
Temple had been considered before Big East officials settled on the Texas schools from Conference USA.
Marinatto met on campus with officials from Air Force on Wednesday and Boise State on Thursday. The Big East presidents are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Philadelphia and are expected to authorize him to officially invite new members.
Along with Louisville and Rutgers, the remaining Big East football schools are South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati.
Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino said Friday that Marinatto was disappointed in WVU's decision.
"I told him to stop taking that attitude," Pitino told ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "If Louisville had left the Big East was over. Nobody was going to come in. I told him to be fired up and go get those teams."
The teams Pitino is referring to are potential Big East invitees Boise State, Air Force, Navy, BYU, Central Florida, Houston and SMU. Pitino said Marinatto has visited with or spoken to officials from each of the schools about joining the conference.
The Big East also has eight members, including Notre Dame, that don't compete in the league in football. Most are small private schools with strong basketball programs such as St. John's, Georgetown and DePaul.
DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto said there are no plans for the basketball schools to split from the football schools.
"I would say at this point we have not gone down that path," she said.
If the Big East can't complete its expansion goals and crumbles, it could leave Notre Dame's much-treasured football independence in doubt and start a whole new round of shuffling.
Information from ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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