ON TUESDAY, West Virginia University officials believed their school was in the Big 12.
Today, it's like they're in the big top.
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the circus.
Unfortunately, though, the circus isn't about to begin. It's begun. Again. Anew.
WVU is not in the Big 12 today. There's absolutely no doubt, however, Mountaineer officials were told the deal was done on Tuesday. None.
One confirmed the deal to me on Tuesday and said a press conference was to be held Wednesday with "the Big 12 folks." Of course, that never materialized.
What has materialized is a side show at the expense of WVU. An amusement park without the amusement.
West Virginia is now in a "holding pattern" after the Big 12 board of directors put the brakes on expansion plans late Tuesday. After Mountaineer officials had been told they were in.
It had to stun those in Morgantown. Then came a report from the New York Times that, "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 former senator, helped slow West Virginia's admittance to the Big 12."
It was the spark that lit a fuse of outrage within West Virginia.
"Who the hell is running the Big 12?" asked one fan on one of the WVU message boards. "A bunch of hormonal teenage girls? I've never seen such a complete lack of professionalism displayed in my entire life."
The report of McConnell's involvement was especially touchy when quotes surfaced from a Sept. 21 ESPN.com story on congressional leaders getting involved with college athletics.
"I don't think the universities need any advice from Congress about how to run their business," McConnell told writer Pat Forde. "I have concerns about it, but I'm not an expert on why the universities are doing what they're doing."
So then, as one would expect, West Virginia's politicians jumped into the fray. Sen. Joe Manchin not only issued a statement, he held a press conference.
The press release issued before that presser would have made Manchin's uncle, A. James, proud.
"If these outrageous reports have any merit," Manchin said, "and especially if a United States Senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made, then I believe there should be an investigation in the U.S. Senate, and I will fight to get the truth.
"West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports."
OK, so, yes, Manchin inserted himself in the debate over a Marshall-WVU football series during his stint as governor. But on Wednesday he was on a roll.