What started as a hiccup for West Virginia’s seemingly inevitable invite to the Big 12 has now turned to reports that the Mountaineers have been blocked (so to speak) for Big 12 entry by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
What we know is that West Virginia MetroNews, citing multiple sources, reports the Big 12 contacted West Virginia yesterday and the two sides agreed to an informal verbal “invite and acceptance”, and that a press conference with the two sides was set for today (Wednesday) to announce that agreement. This had also been reported by Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports.
In the reports of Dominion Post reporter Drew Rubenstein and MetroNews, WVU felt the deal was indeed “done”.
But late last night, as has already been reported, WVU sent out a press release stating there would be no press conference for Wednesday. “Contrary to media reports, there is no press conference scheduled for Wednesday concerning WVU’s athletic conference affiliation. There are no further comments at that time,” the statement said.
From MetroNews’ original story (before updates):
As of late yesterday afternoon, WVU had received a verbal invitation to the Big 12 and had accepted. Plans were in the works for a news conference Wednesday to make the announcement.
But sources say the process hit a “bump in the road” last night. WVU was apparently notified by the Big 12 that it needed “more information” from WVU and that there would be a vote by the Big 12 Board, perhaps on Monday.
Pete Thamel of the New York Times reports that Louisville made a late, 11th hour surge to get back into the discussion as the 10th member of the Big 12.
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.
McConnell is a 1964 graduate of the University of Louisville.
Where the speculation begins is if there was political pressure employed by McConnell to Boren, and potentially, other members of the Big 12 to re-evaluate Louisville as a potential candidate to replace Missouri if they leave for the SEC as they are expected to do.
Additionally, West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller has released the following statement:
“The Big 12 picked WVU on the strength of its program — period. Now the media reports that political games may upend that. That’s just flat wrong. I am doing and will do whatever it takes to get us back to the merits.”
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (previously Gov.) has also called a 6 p.m. press conference to discuss conference realignment issues.
Political pressure, if indeed the driving force behind this latest round of conference shifting, is nothing new; frankly, it doesn’t matter if it’s from McConnell, Rockefeller, Manchin or all of the above. It is, however, a prime example of how far away college football has deviated from logic and rational thinking.