West Virginia to join Big 12

Jake Calhoun

West Virginia will be leaving the Big East Conference for the Big 12, effective July 1, 2012 and will begin competition in the conference for the 2012-13 season, according to the official release from the Big 12 on Friday.

Reports from earlier this week indicated that West Virginia had been accepted by the Big 12 as the replacement for Missouri, which has been in talks to leave the conference after 2012.

“The Big 12 Presidents and Chancellors are excited to welcome another outstanding institution to the Conference,” said OSU President Burns Hargis, chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, in a news release. “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.”

West Virginia will become the 10th member of the Big 12 and the second to join the conference since its inception in 1996. Texas Christian University was officially admitted to the conference on Oct. 10 and will begin competition in July 2012.

“The Big 12 is a perfect fit for West Virginia University,” said WVU President James P. Clements in a news release. “It is a strong conference that, like WVU, values quality academic and athletic programs, and has a great tradition of success. This is a very exciting time for WVU and Mountaineer nation. I am confident that the future of WVU athletics has never been more promising.”

Missouri has reportedly been flirting with the idea of leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference to follow in Texas A&M’s footsteps, which entail leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in July 2012.

An official decision by Missouri to go to the SEC has not been made and spokepeople from both the school and the Big 12 have denied comment on the subject as of Friday.

West Virginia had originally planned a news conference following Tuesday’s reports of the school’s acceptance into the Big 12 until rival Louisville jumped into the discussion with an investigation into the U.S. Senate being proposed.

On Wednesday, an alleged phone call from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Louisville alumnus, to Big 12 officials caused a fit of controversy, as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia then threatened an investigation within the Senate if McConnell “had stood in the way of the Mountaineers’ move,” according to the Associated Press.

Louisville will reportedly stay in the Big East, which is making attempts to find new members for football after losing West Virginia to the Big 12 and Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The loss will leave the Big East down to five teams for football — Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida.

Although the Big 12’s official release on the addition of West Virginia said that it would join the conference next year, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said that the move would not take place for another two years.

“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,” Marinatto said in a statement.

The Big East expects a $5 million exit fee from Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia, according to the Associated Press.

Temple, a member of the Big East from 1991-2004, was one of the schools reportedly being targeted by the conference for expansion. However, the Big East has since shifted its focuses to adding Air Force, Boise State and Navy for football only and Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist for all sports.

The Big 12 voted unanimously on Friday to add West Virginia instead of Louisville, which is closer to the conference’s schools in distance.

“I’m not certain how everything went down, but they fought a good battle and won,” Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich told the Associated Press.

Iowa State is the closest Big 12 school to West Virginia, separated by 870 miles from Ames to Morgantown.

ISU President Gregory Geoffroy was not available for comment. A phone call from the Iowa State Daily to the ISU athletic department seeking comment was not returned.

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