West Virginia has been formally invited to join the Big 12 this morning and will accept the invitation, according to a report on CBSSports.com.
The website cited college football industry sources and said the Big 12’s board of governors met this morning and chose West Virginia over Louisville as the league’s 10th member. At this time, the league plans to remain a 10-member conference.
The Associated Press and ESPN also have reported the school’s impending move, saying the Big East confirmed West Virginia’s planned departure from that league.
West Virginia officials just released a statement saying the school would join the Big 12 on July 1, 2012. That means the Big 12 would operate as a 10-member football league next season, with newcomers TCU and West Virginia essentially replacing SEC-bound Texas A&M and Missouri, which is soon-to-be SEC-bound.
The Big 12 just followed up with its own official announcement about West Virginia's addition, saying the league's board of directors have voted unanimously to acceptWest Virginia as a full conference member effective July 1, 2012. The Mountaineers will begin competing in the Big 12 beginning with the 2012-13 athletic season.
That makes West Virginia second new member to join the conference in the past month, joining TCU.
"The Big 12 Presidents and Chancellors are excited to welcome another outstanding institution to the conference," said Burns Hargis, Chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors and President of Oklahoma State University. "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."
"The Big 12 is a perfect fit for West Virginia University," said WVU President Dr. James P. Clements. "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."
This was the direction things were heading on Tuesday, when multiple Big 12 sources confirmed that West Virginia had moved to the top of the list among members of the league’s expansion committee and had emerged as the school the Big 12 would approach to replace Missouri, once the Tigers officially move to the Southeastern Conference. That was followed by some hard lobbying by a pro-Louisville contingent, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, that caused Big 12 officials to delay the process before Friday's formal vote.
Missouri has yet to publicly announce the move but the decision is expected by Big 12 officials. A press release announcing the Tigers’ move to the SEC surfaced briefly on the league’s website Thursday night before it was taken down. A screen grab of the news release showed it was dated Oct. 22, 2011 with the headline, “Tiger Tracks: Missouri Joins the SEC.”
An SEC spokesman cited a mistake by the league's web vendor for the premature posting and stressed it has yet to reach an agreement with Missouri as the league's 14th member.
The time frame of West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 could be in question. Big East bylaws require schools to give a 27-month notification before leaving the league, along with paying a $5 million exit fee. Earlier today, Big East officials announced plans to hold to school to the same 27-month departure timetable in place for Pittsburgh and Syracuse before their impending move to the ACC.
Missouri’s departure announcement has been clouded because attorneys are still negotiating exit fees with the Big 12, as well as a time frame for the Tigers to begin competing in the SEC. Missouri officials have expressed a desire to move in time to play in the SEC for the 2012 football season.
Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas and other league officials have indicated that they expect the league to operate as a 10-member conference for the 2012-13 school year, with Missouri and newcomer TCU part of the Big 12 mix.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has scheduled a news conference to discuss today's decision by the Big 12.
_ Jimmy Burch