Conference Realignment: Louisville and West Virginia Battle For A Big XII Invitation

To the surprise of virtually no one, the Big 12 can't make up its mind about how to proceed with expansion. In seeking a replacement for Missouri, the Big XII reportedly verbally offered an invitation to West Virginia to join the conference. Naturally, West Virginia accepted the invitation and a press conference was apparently called scheduled for this afternoon with Big 12 officials to be on hand and join in the celebration. Late last night and into this morning, the Mountaineers put the brakes on a press conference upon learning that the offer it had accepted last night was no longer viable, and a new waiting game begins. 

What appears to have taken the West Virginia offer off of the table for the time being? Heavy lobbying and apparent political maneuvering by Louisville. According to Pete Thamel with the New York Times:

A late push by Louisville has put political pressure on the Big 12 and opened the possibility of Louisville’s being the university that is admitted instead of West Virginia. Two people with direct knowledge of the situation said that lobbying by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, including to David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and a former senator, helped slow West Virginia’s admittance to the Big 12.

So Louisville continued to lobby for a spot in the Big 12, and senator Mitch McConnell apparently began to apply pressure of his own. This was at least enough to get the Big XII to temporarily pause on bringing in the Mountaineers to the Big XII. What happens now? And what does it mean for the Big East?

According to Kirk Bohls and other published reports, West Virginia and Louisville are now 50/50. Bohls tweeted earlier than both schools would provide presentations to the Big 12 leadership before a final decision was made, probably some time next week. While their schools have been passed over by other conferences thus far, there aren't many better athletic directors and pitch men than West Virginia's Oliver Luck and Louisville's Tom Jurich, so one can imagine that the presentations and lobbying on their respective school's behalf will be intense and impressive. 

From the Big East's perspective, losing either school would be a big blow as both have been successful football and basketball playing members. In terms of maintaining the conference's BCS automatic qualifying status, losing West Virginia would be a bigger blow than losing Louisville as West Virginia has consistently performed well in the polls, and might be strong enough to entice other programs like Boise State to join the conference for football to bolster the overall ranking. 

If you were the Big East, who would you rather see go? And if you were the Big XII, who would you want? Or would you want both and to try and get back to 12 teams?

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