Chuck Neinas had a vision for the Big 12. Where others saw a conference in turmoil Neinas saw the potential for the Big 12 to challenge the mighty SEC for college football supremacy.
Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas and Baylor were all in the top 20 and conference power rankings had the Big 12 at the top. The spotlight had never been brighter for the Big 12.
Questions about conference stability were soon to be a thing of the past. Big 12 members agreed to a grant of television rights that would secure members anywhere from 6 to 10 years.
The dysfunctional conference of bickering programs seemed to be growing up and its members acting like adults.
Even the impending departure of the Missouri Tigers didn’t seem like a problem. The Big 12 had the answer waiting in the wings… the West Virginia Mountaineers.
On Tuesday when the news began to break that the Mountaineers had been invited to the Big 12 the national media hailed the news with widespread approval.
Big 12 members bragged the Mountaineers were an upgrade over the Tigers in both football and basketball and from coast to coast journalists agreed.
Chuck Neinas even made plans to fly to Morgantown to welcome the Mountaineers into the conference.
And then WVU issued a press release stating that no press conference would be held.
Louisville’s AD Jurich and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell had tampered.
They caught the ear of Oklahoma President David Boren and began to slander WVU. They touted their Olympic sports and easy access to airports while whispering words of WVU fan misconduct into Boren’s ears.
The vote of Big 12 Directors that was supposed to formally approve WVU’s membership hit a snag. WVU didn’t have the votes for approval.
Oklahoma voted no.
They were supposed to vote yes.
Earlier the Big 12’s Board of Directors had approved WVU’s invitation. The formal vote was supposed to be perfunctory.
Oklahoma voted no.
WVU was embarrassed.
The Big 12 was embarrassed.
Embarrassment aside the move by the Big 12 was completely bush league.
WVU officials are angry and reached out to West Virginia’s senior Senator Jay Rockefeller for help.
Rockefeller had served in the Senate with Boren and phoned his long-time friend. Their conversation was private but Rockefeller pointed out to Boren that the Big 12 had selected WVU on the merits of the Mountaineer program and political interference was would not be tolerated.
Oliver Luck, who himself has close ties to the University of Texas, contacted his friend Longhorn Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds to secure his support.
Texas is firmly behind WVU – maybe that’s part of the problem.
Senator Joe Manchin was incensed with the rumors of tampering by McConnell and promised to call for a Congressional investigation.
Manchin, a WVU alum and former Mountaineer player, held a press conference and said:
“The Big 12′s commitment was stronger than just verbal to WVU.”
Chuck Neinas scrambled for damage control. The national media criticized the Big 12 for resuming its dysfunctional behavior and their reputation took another hit.
WVU expects to be a member of the Big 12 period. The allusion Senator Manchin made about the Big 12’s commitment to WVU being more than verbal is one reason WVU is confident.
Another reason WVU is confident is the public relations nightmare the Big 12 would suffer if they reneged on their promise to WVU.
The Big 12 is scheduled to have yet another Director’s meeting on Monday. The topic is expansion and WVU will be discussed.
Texas will make the case for the conference staying at 10 with WVU. Oklahoma reportedly wants Louisville and the remaining members want to expand to 12.
With the agreement, and possibly legally binding agreement, between WVU and the Big 12 already in place it would be nearly impossible for the Directors not to approve WVU on Monday.
The real battle will be between Texas and Oklahoma to stay at 10 or to add Louisville and have an odd 11 members.
The safe bet would be to count on both WVU and Louisville.
Louisville doesn’t have the votes. West Virginia is one short. A compromise avoids more embarrassment and a guaranteed legal battle with WVU if they don’t honor their agreement.
Adding both WVU and Louisville hurts the bottom line of Big 12 members. Texas is unhappy about the pressure to add Louisville and just doesn’t see the value the Cardinals would bring to the Big 12.
Oklahoma doesn’t see the value in the Cardinal program either. The only advantage Louisville has over WVU is geography and that’s debatable since only 30 minutes separate Louisville and Morgantown by air. The Sooners switched their vote to foil Texas.
Once again the Big 12 is suffering from the ego-driven infighting that has the conference on the brink of extinction.
Another casualty of this fiasco is the relationship between Louisville and WVU. WVU believes Louisville underhandedly dealt with the Big 12 and possibly slandered WVU by warning Big 12 schools about the very SEC-like behavior of the Mountaineer fan base.
And to show how desperate and pathetic Louisville was it proposed to the Big 12 to take considerably less than the equal share of conference revenue from between 3-5 years.
Even the Louisville media admits the Mountaineer football program is considerably more attractive than the Card’s. Louisville doesn’t come close to matching up with the Mountaineer program.
Louisville knew they couldn’t earn the Big 12 spot on merit. So did the only thing a desperate program can do – they played dirty.
They offered themselves at a discount.
Greed rules college football so maybe a cheap team would be appealing to the Big 12.
But the Big 12 would do well to remember a little bit of sage advice – you get what you pay for.
And as for the Big 12’s TV partner Fox Broadcasting?
They advised the Big 12 that WVU was preferable over both Louisville and BYU.
They still feel that way.
Louisville comes to Morgantown on November 5th. Cards fans may want to stay at home.
The massacre will be historic.