By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Defections have hit the Big East hard over the last few months and it appears the conference is going to lose another team: West Virginia has decided to leave the Big East for the Big 12. With Missouri all set to become the 14th member of the SEC, the addition of the Mountaineers returns the Big 12 to 10 members.
West Virginia’s arrival date into the Big 12 is uncertain. The Big East plans to make Syracuse and Pittsburgh honor the conference’s 27-month waiting period to leave for the ACC, so it’s likely the Mountaineers will have to follow the same path. In other words, it could be a few years before West Virginia actually plays its first Big 12 game.
Losing West Virginia is a huge blow to the Big East. The Mountaineers were the conference’s top program, finishing in the Associated Press top 25 six out of the last nine seasons.
In addition to losing West Virginia, the Big East has dealt with the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, along with TCU over the last few months.
Had the Mountaineers stayed in the Big East, it’s likely the conference would have survived.
Now, it’s uncertain if the Big East will survive as a football conference or keep its automatic spot into the BCS.
The Big East has only five members committed to the conference: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. And there could be future defections.
The Big 12 has committed to a 10-team conference for the immediate future, but Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida could be targets for future expansion. Connecticut and Rutgers are also interested in joining the ACC.
Although the Big East plans to invite Boise State, Houston, SMU, UCF and a couple of others to get to a 12-team conference, it’s uncertain if that would be able to keep an automatic spot in the BCS. And with West Virginia’s departure, it’s fair to wonder if Boise State, Houston, SMU or UCF are concerned about the long-term viability of the Big East and decline an invitation.
West Virginia will be an odd fit in the Big 12, as it will be the eastern-most member of the conference by a wide margin. All of the Big 12 teams were located in the middle of the country and in four states: Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. However, realignment has eliminated geography as a factor with conferences.
The Mountaineers were the Big 12’s best option when it came time to deciding a replacement for Missouri. West Virginia has recruited Florida well as a member of the Big East, but expect it to try to build pipelines into Texas as a member of the Big 12.
The move to the Big 12 is a homecoming for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. The first-year coach is from Iowa, and coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.
The move is a win for both sides. The Big 12 gets a program that is a top 25 contender in football and basketball in most seasons. This move helps the Mountaineers exit a conference that is on life support, for one that is surprisingly stable after potential defections in the summer. Although the geographic fit is strange, this move is good for West Virginia and the Big 12.
Distance from Morgantown to Big 12 teams
Baylor: 1,297 miles
Iowa State: 871 miles
Kansas: 901 miles
Kansas State: 982 miles
Oklahoma: 1,138 miles
Oklahoma State: 1,084 miles
TCU: 1,235 miles
Texas: 1,398 miles
Texas Tech: 1,465 miles
West Virginia’s Record Against Current Big 12 Teams
Baylor: Have not played
Iowa State: Have not played
Kansas: Mountaineers lead series 1-0
Kansas State: Series is tied 1-1
Oklahoma: Series is tied 2-2
Oklahoma State: Mountaineers lead series 2-1
TCU: Mountaineers lead series 1-0
Texas: Mountaineers lead series 1-0
Texas Tech: Mountaineers lead series 1-0