SBD/October 26, 2011/Colleges

West Virginia Reportedly Will Join Big 12 Regardless Of Missouri's Future

Both WVU and Big 12 hope Mountaineers can join conference for '12-13 athletic year
West Virginia Univ. “has applied for membership to the Big 12 Conference and has been accepted,” according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Mike Casazza of the CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL. The details of WVU's move, including “the specific date for WVU to leave the Big East Conference,” were being finalized yesterday, but sources said that “the decision to move has been approved on both sides.” WVU released a statement late yesterday stating that “there would be no press conference today.” Because of the move, the school “could be subjected to the Big East's exit fee and might have to wait 27 months before departing,” but sources said that the Big 12 and WVU “both hope the Mountaineers will be in its new conference for the 2012-13 athletic year.” Casazza reports WVU was “part of a unanimous vote last week to increase the Big East exit fee from $5 million to $10 million once it added a school.” However, WVU will only “have to pay $5 million because no team has joined the Big East.” If the conference announces an addition before WVU's move to the Big 12 is official, the school "would have to pay $10 million.” However, a source said that the university “is confident that will not happen.” Casazza notes a move to the Big 12 “will be celebrated as an athletic and academic upgrade by WVU, but also as a major financial improvement.” WVU's athletic department “stands to make more than twice what it made as a Big East member” in ‘10-11. The school earned $7.049M “in revenue sharing from television, bowls, NCAA basketball tournament monies and other contributions” during that time period (CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL, 10/26). In Pittsburgh, Jenn Menendez notes WVU's television market “will be the smallest in the Big 12, but the school’s brand of football and rabid fan base have long been considered the university’s best selling point” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/26). However, in K.C., Kerkhoff & DeArmond cite sources as saying the Big 12 BOD “met on a conference call and … the presidents essentially hit the pause button on expansion” (K.C. STAR, 10/26).

MEANT TO REPLACE MISSOURI? In Charleston, Dave Hickman in a front-page piece notes “conventional wisdom seems to be that West Virginia’s acceptance means that Big 12 officials have been assured that Missouri is about to withdraw from the conference and that only the details and exit strategies remain to be worked out.” Missouri officials “reportedly were at the SEC’s headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday discussing the move.” Sources said that WVU’s “admittance to the Big 12 wasn’t necessarily predicated on Missouri’s exit” (CHARLESTON GAZETTE, 10/26). ESPN.com’s Joe Schad reported the Big 12 “still wants Missouri to play in the conference next season, as to not open the possibility of television renegotiations if the league were to drop to nine teams.” A source said that the conference “feels comfortable at 10 teams but still will consider 12 teams in the future.” Another source said that the Big 12 also “is discussing a conference media network, which … could even include content, if not games, related to the University of Texas, which founded its own Longhorn Network in association with ESPN” (ESPN.com, 10/25).

MIZZOU DECISION NOT BEING RUSHED
: MU Chancellor Brady Deaton appeared on KFRU-AM yesterday and said the school is "days, possibly a week or two," from making known its future conference affiliation plans. Deaton said, "We feel a great urgency to clarify them as quickly as possible. ... We're hoping the sooner the better.” Deaton noted the school's Board of Curators Friday granted him the "authority to make the decision affecting conference alignment at the University of Missouri." Deaton: "That was a big step because involved in these steps that are taken at this point are two conferences, two boards of directors, two sets of legal counsel, two sets of financial analyses -- or three if you count the university separate from the Big 12 -- and then you have a commissioner in whichever conference you’re dealing with. So they’re complex issues and we have to look at a wide range of issues affecting our student athletes, travel, financial issues, future security, stability of the conference. So what we’re trying to do in other areas, such as developing private development funds, depends on the environment you’re setting within the institution.” He added the school is "analyzing each of those issues very carefully, and these are not decisions that can just be made at the press of a button." Deaton: "My point here, I think for the public and alums to hopefully understand is, we are not delaying anything beyond what has to be delayed to make the right decision for the University of Missouri, and we’re absolutely committed to that.” He noted a lot of people "point to the fact that this is just about money. ... That simply is not the case." Deaton said, "As we’re looking at alternatives here, the financial considerations are not the principle considerations. Looking to long-term stability for an environment for the University of Missouri to prosper, for its student athletes to reach their highest, most effective level of competitiveness, with clarity of where we are going as a university, are really the most important overriding factors that we’re looking at” ("Columbia Morning with David Lile,” KFRU-AM, 10/25). Meanwhile, the Greater K.C. Chamber of Commerce board has voted unanimously this week to ask Deaton "to reject overtures to leave the Big 12" for the SEC (K.C. STAR, 10/26).
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