I’m never going to actually talk about the football game tonight until the liveblog, am I?
In case you hadn’t heard, the move of WVU to the Big 12 — is no longer necessarily a question of when, but maybe not.
Not long after West Virginia University began to slowly spread word of its agreement to join the Big 12 Conference on Tuesday, people began to make calls to say the deal was on hold.
And now, as one WVU official said Wednesday morning, “Who knows?”
WVU learned Tuesday evening the expected announcement to join the Big 12 was being delayed and that Louisville, which would be one of five football schools the Mountaineers would leave behind in the depleted Big East Conference, began to exert pressure on the Big 12 to consider the Cardinals instead of WVU.
The Mountaineers may now have to wait until the Big 12 board meets again Monday to perhaps decide whether the conference will accept WVU or Louisville.
This is absolutely, bat shit crazy. And we also have our first sighting of possible political interference.
From the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a certain Senator has been making calls.
Two people with direct knowledge of the situation said that lobbying by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, including to David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and a former senator, helped slow West Virginia’s admittance to the Big 12.
West Virginia officials, who called the deal “solid” late Tuesday afternoon, declined comment Wednesday.
“I think it’s 50-50 right now between West Virginia and Louisville,” one of the people with direct knowledge said. The other added that it was “too close to call.”
Who knows what will ultimately happen, but if somehow Louisville gets in and West Virginia is left in the Big East, I can guarantee that every anti-Republican ad in West Virginia from the President to podunk city dogcatcher will begin, “The party of Mitch McConnell…”
Frankly, I’m amazed that the political meddling has happened this late. The genius of the surprise move of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, is that grandstanding politicians in New Jersey and Connecticut were caught too flat-footed to make any waves. It’s all after the fact, pleading.
Back to the issue of WVU or Louisville. This strikes me as a Texas-style snafu. Texas has been the one to leak every potential member, or more precisely who they want in the Big 12. From Pitt to BYU to Arkansas. They were forced to swallow hard and accept TCU, but seemed to get the concession of staying at 10 members. At least until Mizzou began its slow move to the SEC.
The choice of WVU was driven by Texas. They seemed more enamored of the football success of WVU over market size, geography, travel issues, etc. Up until late last week, the feeling had been stronger that Louisville was the top choice. And it would seem that for a significant minority (at least 3 to 4) of the 8 schools that can vote — Mizzou isn’t participating and TCU isn’t allowed yet — they still are. This smacks of another inter-conference battle with Texas and Oklahoma going at it once more.
The impasse has things on hold. Showing that you can boot the conference commissioner, but when there are egos and competing interests, dysfunction remains. WVU and Louisville will be sweating this one out for at least a week.
Not that there is much that the Big East conference can say or do at this point. I’m not even sure they bothered to tell John Marinatto about the lastest. Honestly, if I’m the Big East, I’m on the phone with Navy and Air Force. Begging them to make the quick decision to join to raise the exit fee to $10 million before the Big 12 final choice. Hell offer them each and extra million off the top of the exit fee as an incentive.
In related matters, Notre Dame still has a decision to make. The drumbeat seems to be that Notre Dame may be closer to completely joining a conference since their 1999 decision not to go Big 10. They really only have 3 choices: Join ACC or Big 10 completely, rebuild Big East and deal with it, or join Big 12 in all but football.
Orangebloods.com, not surprisingly, is claiming that the last choice is the most likely. Unmentioned is that the Big 12 does not offer a place for all of ND’s sports. Lacrosse and Soccer would still have to find a place. Definitely a minor issue, but the fit isn’t nearly as neat as the article pretends. It also adds a laugher as you realize how much this is closer to wishful thinking.
If Notre Dame does make such a move, it is being proposed that the Irish would remain independent in football but begin playing up to six football games against Big 12 competition.
Orangebloods.com has reported that Texas would love to replace Texas A&M on Thanksgiving with Notre Dame, if possible. That still may be a bit of a longshot.
One high-ranking official at a Big 12 school holds out the hope that if Notre Dame moves its non-football sports into the Big 12 it would be a “segue to full conference membership in a year or two – about the time the first tier TV rights (held by ABC/ESPN) are negotiated.
Six Big 12 games? Really? Plenty of wiggle room with the qualifier, “up to” but get real. That never happens. Not unless most of the games are 3 or 4 for 1 home game series. I just don’t see the Irish making periodic visits to Ames, Manhattan, Lawrence, Waco, Stillwater and Lubbock.
An ex-ND AD — who also happens to be an ex-ACC Commissioner — Gene Corrigan thinks it is more likely that ND is thinking ACC this time.
That article also strikes me as a bit of wishful spinning. I think ND’s administration knows they have to join a conference some point sooner than they would like. I don’t think it’s clear whether it would be the Big 10 or ACC.
I also think the biggest issue stopping the decision is that the ND administration knows that most of the alumni are still unwilling/unready for the move. They are a lot closer than they were in 1999 — and that was closer than edpected. Too many donors/alum with too much money and power are still opposed. There aren’t enough people in the athletic department and the school itself willing to put their own jobs on the line and make the move. No, I still maintain that ND won’t make the move until they are backed all the way into the corner.