Mountaineers move west to Big 12

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

Baylor will travel to play the new member of the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia University.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for WVU athletics, our fans and the state of West Virginia,” football coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Having coached in the Big 12 before, I appreciate the excitement, passion and expectations associated with the conference, and I have no doubt that WVU athletics will be a great addition to the Big 12.”

The school’s acceptance was made official Friday, despite anxious Missouri who is ready to join the Southeastern Conference.

The Big East is not looking to cut ties quickly, seeing as it has a rule stating that teams leaving must wait 27 months, but WVU is looking to join the conference in nine months.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement Friday that he still expected West Virginia to wait 27 months before leaving the Big East.

However, West Virginia President James P. Clements reiterated Friday evening that he fully expects the school to be out of the Big East in nine months, saying he is “excited” to join the Big 12 on July 1, 2012.

West Virginia gave the Big East eight month’s notice.

The school has paid $2.5 million dollars to the conference in exit fees and looks to pay the same amount to total $5 million once the summer comes around the move is finally solidified.

“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,” said Oklahoma State University president Burns Hargis, the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Geographically, the closest school in the conference to Morgantown is Iowa State, located in Ames, Iowa, 870 miles away.

WVU brings in a football team that consistently ranked in the top 25 in recent years.

After departure of Missouri the Big 12 knew it had to have at minimum 10 teams, due to the 13-year deal made in April with Fox worth $1.17 billion based on a league with 10 members.

This move was put on hold by competing ideas about the allowance of Louisville instead of WVU.

Recently, Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman has said the idea of admitting the Cardinals anyway, bringing the total to 11 assuming the departure of Missouri, bringing conference play to a 10 game round robin and more premiere games bringing in more money.

“I wouldn’t say that there won’t be further expansion,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said on a conference call Friday evening. “But our mission was … to move forward with 10 teams at this point. That doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be further consideration. But right now we’ve got our house in order. We’ve got everybody signed up. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”

This is just a rumor, seeing as no action has been made yet.

After two straight summers of conference realignment and threatening the break-up of the Big 12, Baylor needs a solid foundation of certainty, which is being established whether or not Louisville joins the conference.

“West Virginia is one of the top athletic programs in the nation,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said. “They bring in competitive teams to face and a strong brand to the Big 12. This brand will add credibility to the conference and be valuable to the Baylor program.”

The main reason drama ensued as the Aggies departed for the SEC was the lack of options Baylor had.

There were rumors floating around about Baylor possibly joining the Conference USA, the ACC and the Big East.

West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, sponsors 17 varsity sports.

Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, football, soccer, swimming & diving and wrestling.

Women’s sports are basketball, cross country, gymnastics, rowing, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track & field and volleyball.

The Mountaineers also boast a co-ed rifle squad.

The Big 12 sponsors every sport the Mountaineers participate in except rifle and men’s soccer.

West Virginia brings about great competition for Baylor, especially in women’s basketball, seeing as last year the Lady Bears met them in the NCAA tournament last year.

With teams wanting to join the Big 12, the unstable conference from September is regaining its footing, allowing more confidence for Baylor.