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ELLIOTT: Looks Like WVU, Big East are Headed for a Showdown

October 29, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

OK, West Virginia is about to become a member of the Big 12.

Seriously, it's been confirmed by some guys in suits. That was easy, huh?

A few of those gentlemen held a conference call with the media Friday in which, on the whole, the questions were much better than the answers.

You wouldn't believe how many different ways there are to ask how the Mountaineers plan to become a full-fledged member of the Big 12 next July when the Big East is holding everyone that leaves it - and that's just about everyone - to a 27-month waiting period?

The answers were the same, with WVU Athletics Director Oliver Luck bouncing back and forth between ''no comment'' and ''our team is working with their team.'' (It was reported later Friday that the Big East's team, in fact, has not spoken to the WVU team and has no plans to allow West Virginia any leniency).

Want to take a guess who will win here? It's college athletics. The answer is always the same. The guy with the most money wins, though this has a lawsuit feel to it already.

Through it all, Luck, who undoubtedly can't wait to snuggle up to the Big 12's already-decided revenue distribution policy, expressed confidence that West Virginia, indeed, will be playing football in the Big 12 next season, where there are currently three more teams in the Top 25 than Big East squads played this season in their entire non-conference schedules.

There are only two people in the world more interested in knowing how the Mountaineers are going to pull this off than the folks participating on that call - Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and Syracuse President Nancy Cantor. As far as we know, the Big East was pretty forthright in telling those two schools they're not going anywhere for 27 months, either.

Word out of the league the last few days is officials kinda figured West Virginia was on its way out - are they reading message boards, too? - and they weren't too worried about it because one way or another, they're bent on rebuilding the league.

Perhaps the Big East, which now has only a handful of committed football-playing schools, will do that swiftly and have no reason to hold WVU, Syracuse, and Pitt hostage. Or perhaps other schools will look at the Big East's rubble, say no thanks, and the league will just go away. Maybe a judge will decide it.

Those are three ways the Mountaineers will be able to attempt to Hook the Horns next year. Another is with a big fat check. Let's face it, no one is making more money than the Big East these days. By my count, it's made $15 million in the last six weeks without so much as moving a muscle.

What about geography?

You had to love the answer Big 12 Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas gave on that one.

''The landscape has changed,'' he said.

It has?

The real answer is WVU is positioned to make so much more money by making this move, the women's tennis flights to Ames, Iowa, will be easy enough to absorb. Clearly, they did their homework on this. If this was about travel costs, the Mountaineers would just play Marshall in everything and be done with it.

Other questions asked, and mostly unanswered, were about Missouri, which, at last check, remains a Big 12 member. No one said it, but by just judging by the tones and evasive answers by the Big 12 people, they're hoping that changes very quickly.

Twenty-seven months? Missouri has 27 seconds to get out. They did say, however, if Mizzou stays, they'll have an 11-team conference next season.

And, finally, what about beer? The Big 12 has no policy on beer sales at stadiums. Evidently it's up to the member schools to decide.

See, Neinas was wrong. The landscape hasn't changed that much.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net