West Virginia Over Louisville, Really?
In October (Yes, it is over 2 months later but who cares) the Big 12 Conference formally invited West Virginia to join them in the illustrious and historic BCS conference located in the Midwest. The decision to leave the Big East must have been an easy one for the school from Morgantown, knowing that their best sport was American’s newest favorite past time, football, and that the largest basketball conference in the nation was on a downward slope for football.
The University of Louisville (herein Louisville) was the frontrunner for the last spot in the Big 12 for months so people have wondered why Louisville will not be playing host to football powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma in 2015. Well it is because of the mastermind Tom Jurich. Many scold him for not taking the invitation immediately, but Jurich made a decision that was in the best interest of his school.
To understand Jurich’s decision, you have to look at the bigger picture. The University of Texas wanted a national television network and they wanted a change. This prompted them to attempt a changeover from the Big 12 to the newly formed PAC-12. Had this occurred, it was said that Oklahoma would go with them leaving Big 12 football with………Texas A&M? Kansas State? That doesn’t seem very exciting for a school trying to prove it’s worth (Louisville) and certainly does not give an impression that the Big 12 has everything under control. So why would Jurich want to leave a stable conference (at that time) for a seemingly unstable one? Exactly, he wouldn’t. The first invitation came when the Big East was intact.
Well, just like any rich kid who was used to getting their way as soon as they wanted the Big 12 got tired of waiting on Jurich and invited the University of West Virginia, the small town, couch burning school from Morgantown. Now what did West Virginia have that Louisville wasn’t already better at? Oh right, football! That’s it. They didn’t have better academics, their overall sports were worse, and, let’s face it, Morgantown vs. Louisville? Really? Burns Hargis, the Oklahoma State University President and chairman of the Big 12 board of directors said, “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,” It seems Mr. Hargis is trying to make a credible defense for adding West Virginia over Louisville, but it is clear that the reason for the invitation is their consistency in the top 25 (hyperlink) and not because they bring great academics.
The most intriguing time during this situation was when politics became involved. Kentucky’s longtime Republican senator, Mitch McConnell, stepped up to the plate. As an alumnus of UofL, he made phone calls to Big 12 officials to try and convince them to change their minds. Now I am usually not a fan of Mr. McConnell but this was one time I was proud to call him my senator. But then Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia decided to step in and voice his opinion as well. This was all funny and interesting at the same time because it was said that the Big 12 was set to officially invite West Virginia to join, but this was put to a halt because of the political game that was being played for a short time.
Unfortunately, soon after the Senator’s interference those Mountaineers got the call that every Louisville fan dreaded would come. They accepted their bid to the Big 12 almost immediately, whichLouisville would have also done had they been offered a bid at this time rather than months prior. Now in a few years West Virginia gets to host the Longhorns and Sooners, while the Cardinals are stuck with exciting new programs that include (but are not limited to!) Southern MethodistUniversity and Central Florida.
To add icing to the cake above all of this is that West Virginia has the audacity to try and sue the Big East, claiming that the conference has not maintained a balance between the football and basketball schools in the conference. It is argued (and I agree) that West Virginia is attempting to sue to get out of having to pay a $10 million exit that the Big East has recently required of it’s members that are leaving while still under contract. With all the recent problems West Virginia has caused the Big East, I say good riddance and from a UofL fan I will tell the Big 12 that I will see you within five years.