MORGANTOWN - There couldn't have been a more festive atmosphere to Tuesday's press conference at Milan Puskar Stadium celebrating the marriage between West Virginia University and the Big 12.
Dignitaries were there. Food was served. The Mountaineer pep band played the fight song.
Unfortunately, though, before the event, another fight song had been played.
The Big East presidents met in Philadelphia and declared they'd fight WVU's lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, and the school's intention to leave the conference before the 27 months agreed on in exit bylaws.
"In light of the lawsuit filed by West Virginia [Monday]," said Big East commissioner John Marinatto via a release, "the presidents also discussed and confirmed our continuing commitment to enforce the conference's 27-month notification period for schools choosing to leave. The conference believes these claims to be wholly without merit and will explore all its legal options to protect its interests and to ensure that West Virginia lives up to its obligations."
The proverbial line in the sand was drawn. Marinatto told the Associated Press he was "stunned" by WVU's tactics.
And one can understand why. WVU wanted out so desperately, wished for a safe haven so much, it seemingly told the Big 12 it would join next season despite the bylaw provision.
In the end, will the Mountaineers begin play in the Big 12 next year? Probably. WVU was shrewd in filing the lawsuit instead of simply moving to the Big 12 and waiting to be sued. The school can claim that when its lawsuit was filed, the Big East was in chaos and not a viable conference. It can claim the league "breached its fiduciary duty" to "maintain a balance between football-playing and non-football members."
In the end, perhaps there will be a settlement and WVU can go on its merry way.
But at a cost. And not just financially.
WVU, which wore the white hat in the mess that was the Rich Rodriguez departure, has unquestionably donned the black hat in this case. Marinatto, heretofore seen as a bumbling commissioner desperately trying to keep his league together - and his job - will now be seen as the good guy. As Rodriguez tried to weasel out of his contract buyout, WVU is trying to weasel out of its notification period.
And that's not how we in this state roll. West Virginians are known for their handshake and their good word.
It's already met with national scorn. One writer criticized the school's lack of class. Asked if its lesson to students is to litigate out of, rather than honor, a contract. And the hits will continue.
On Tuesday, West Virginia University president Jim Clements called it a "historic day." Athletic director Oliver Luck said he was "proud and honored to accept the invitation to join the Big 12 Conference."
But WVU isn't honorably leaving one conference for another.
Sure, the league had problems. Big ones. For much of West Virginia's time within, the football side was a punchline. But the league saved a Mountaineer program adrift via the football conference, opened the door to BCS games and provided great men's and women's basketball moments.
And then it was stunned by WVU's declaration.
Meanwhile, WVU partied on Tuesday. There were smiles . There were laughs. ("Probably the only people who are hesitant about accepting West Virginia," said Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, "are some of our coaches, 'cause they know the quality of West Virginia athletics.") There were handshakes.
But the celebration felt odd. Didn't feel right.
Because the way WVU is leaving the Big East isn't right.
Neinas was asked if West Virginia's invitation was contingent on being able to join next season.