While all of the focus these days is on when West Virginia will join the Big 12, if you remember back to late last summer the first question was whether the Mountaineers would be headed from the Big East to the SEC.
In September it was reported at various points that West Virginia was angling for SEC membership, but that membership was reportedly rejected by the conference. Instead, WVU ultimately received and accepted an invitation to join the Big 12.
The SEC “rejection”, though, wasn’t for lack of effort on the part of one very high-profile native son.
In an interview with the Charleston Daily Mail discussing his state’s flagship school’s move to another conference, Sen. Joe Manchin revealed that none other than Alabama head coach and Fairmont, WV, native Nick Saban was helping with the push to get the Mountaineers into the SEC.
“I thought we could have been in the SEC,” Manchin said. “I talked to my dear friend Nick Saban about that, and, like me, he said, ‘I would like West Virginia in the SEC,’ and we were working toward that.”
Alas, Saban’s recruiting efforts weren’t enough — maybe he talked too much about the NFL and not enough about academics? — as Manchin said the invitation instead went to a second Big 12 school.
“They chose Missouri instead, and then you never heard a thing else about it,” Manchin said.
Manchin’s relationship with Saban dates back to the days that the three-time BcS champion coach was an assistant under Frank Cignetti Sr. at WVU in the late-70s. Even the power of persuasion Saban possesses, however, wasn’t enough to get his home-state school into the most powerful football conference in the country.