Country Roads, Find Them a New Home: West Virginia’s Rumored Trek to the Big 12Posted by cwilliams on October 26th, 2011
The times, they are a changin’. Bob Dylan knew it then, and college athletic fans know it now. The landscape of college athletics has been changing for about a year now. Slowly, however. Very slowly, I’m talking continental drift slow. Nevertheless, a new chapter of conference realignment looks to be near completion, as rumors are swirling of Missouri‘s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC, and West Virginia‘s embarkation from the Big East to the Big 12. Yet, while everyone assumes these moves are official, we need to keep one thing in mind: nothing official has happened yet. Many journalists have tweeted about their athletic departments sources saying it’s a done deal one way or another, and we’re left to wonder what to believe. So, tonight, instead of speculating on what will happen, let’s examine what is being reported about West Virginia. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Missouri’s rumored “impending” move to the SEC.
- The Mountaineers, who were once anticipated to be on the short-list of SEC expansion candidates, are reportedly close to leaving the Big East for the Big 12, according to the New York Times. The Times goes on to say that a source inside the Mountaineers athletic department claims they have applied for membership in the Big 12, and have been accepted.
- The MetroNews of West Virginia has an article discussing that while the Mountaineers have a solid athletic spending budget by Big East standards, they will be behind the average in the Big 12.
- WVU will only have to pay a $5 million departure fee, despite the recent rule change raising the cost of Big East departure from $5 million to $10 million. Apparently, the new departure fee will not settle in until a new team is added to the Big East.
- The Big East, if they were to lose West Virginia, would have only five football teams. Woof. This will obviously force it to seek new football affiliates or merge with another conference. So, to answer everyone’s question, no, we are not anywhere near being done with conference realignment.
In my mind, West Virginia is a perfect candidate for the Big 12 in terms of athletics. Their fan base’s dedication is similar to that of many Big 12 teams, and the Mountaineers on-court and on-field performances have been impressive. The football team boasts two BCS bowl victories and a storied history. Their basketball program has a rich legacy as well, led by Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley. In recent years, the Mountaineers have performed spectacularly in the postseason, winning the Big East Tournament and making their second Final Four appearance in school history two seasons ago. They are led by their charismatic and seasoned coach, Bob Huggins, an icon in modern college hoops. In all honesty, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for WVU to enter the conference realignment discussion. What is curious to me, however, is the Big 12′s addition of West Virginia at this current juncture. The Mountaineers are considered not as an addition to the Big 12 but as a replacement for Missouri. This is surprising because Missouri has not officially left yet. Yes, Missouri’s departure to the SEC is widely considered to be a done deal, but one thing I’ve learned from this conference realignment discussion (debacle?) is that rumors mean little until the official announcements. If they did, Texas would already be planning for a move to the Pac-16, and Frank Haith would be readying his Missouri squad for Big 10 basketball.
Tomorrow, we will explore the Missouri/SEC facts and rumors.