That crumbling nature of the Big East was the primary motive for West Virginia's move. The school has been attempting to find a lifeboat for months now, but was rebuffed by both the ACC and SEC, which would have been more geographically sensible.
In the Big 12, West Virginia has no concerns about being a part of a conference with automatic-qualifying status into the Bowl Championship Series. It could also more than double its conference share of television and other revenue. Last year, WVU's slice of the Big East pie was just over $7 million. This year, Big 12 members are expected to reap in the neighborhood of $15 million. And next year a new 13-year, $1.17 billion contract with Fox kicks in. The Big East does not have a television contract beyond the 2012-13 school year.
The biggest concern, of course, is travel. The closest Big 12 school to West Virginia is Iowa State, which is still almost 900 miles. The average distance to a Big 12 campus from Morgantown is more than 1,000 miles.
West Virginia officials, though, weighed those factors against the possibility of remaining in the deteriorating Big East and decided it was worth the difficulties.
When asked if there were any reservations about the move, one high-placed WVU source who did not want to be quoted, said he had "Zero. Zero apprehension.
"We've run the numbers on charter flights and travel and everything else we could at this point," the source said. "In the end it comes down to a matter of stability and playing with the big boys."
Conjecture on the Missouri replacement in recent weeks has centered on West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati of the Big East and independent Brigham Young University. If the Big 12 eventually decides to expand to 12, one or two of those other three schools would likely be the targets.
When West Virginia might be able to begin play in the Big 12 is up in the air. First, Missouri is contractually committed to staying in the Big 12 through the 2012-13 school year, although if the Tigers are planning to leave then negotiating that departure date could be one of the hang-ups in Missouri's decision.
There is also the Big East's 27-month rule, which does not allow a school to exit the conference until after that length of time following an announcement. Pitt and Syracuse are bound by that, as well, which means none of the schools could begin play elsewhere until the 2014-15 school year.
Big East commissioner John Marinatto has been steadfast in his conviction to hold departing schools to that timetable, although once -- or if -- new members join, those schools might feel differently about having lame duck members of the league. And, too, in less than 27 months the football portion of the Big East might have collapsed all together.
When West Virginia leaves the Big East, the only FBS-level football schools remaining there will be Rutgers, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida. Connecticut has been rather open about its desire to join the ACC along with Pitt and Syracuse, and there remains the possibility that if the Big 12 expands even more it could take Louisville and/or Cincinnati.
The Big 12 is currently at 10 members after the departure of Nebraska and Colorado last year, Texas A&M this year and the addition of TCU. The nine members of the Big 12 besides Missouri are Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.
West Virginia might not be the only school ready to jump to the Big 12, either. Notre Dame, which is a member of the Big East in most sports but an independent in football, is reportedly looking at its options because of the exodus of schools from the Big East. While the Irish are unlikely to put their football program into the Big 12, the league seems receptive to adding Notre Dame under the same conditions as the Big East -- giving its basketball and Olympic sports a new home.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.