WHILE THE annual angst was swirling around college football coaches and fans, a more important issue continued to play out in regard to West Virginia University's athletic program.
Specifically, the issue of the program's conference affiliation.
You might recall from a Jan. 25 Gazette story, Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said he'd like to "make the record clear for folks in West Virginia."
He gave it a stab by saying his conference has "a schedule with West Virginia" and that it has "a contractual commitment with our television partners that we must release a schedule by Feb. 1 and we will do that."
As of late evening Wednesday, Feb. 1, however, no schedule had been released - at least to the fans, media, etc. Calls and an email to Big 12 associate commissioner Bob Burda were made and around 8 p.m. a reply was received. Said it:
"The Big 12 Conference has provided a 10-team 2012 football schedule to its television partners and expects to release it publicly in the near future."
The mention of 10 teams means the schedule sent to TV partners Fox and ABC/ESPN includes WVU and TCU.
The delay is curious, however, considering the certainty of Neinas and his statements. The obvious conclusion is the delay is linked to WVU's dueling lawsuits with the Big East. As you surely know, the Mountaineers are attempting to flee the Big East for the Big 12 in time for next season.
One source in the know, however, said it would be a mistake to assume the delay is totally driven by WVU's situation. So there might be issues with other schools. Perhaps the TV partners want to move games around.
When reached Wednesday, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck said he couldn't "comment on that. It's an issue for the [Big 12] conference."
In regard to the legal issue, Monongalia Circuit Judge Russell Clawges basically allowed WVU to retain its half of a home court advantage, refusing to put the school's lawsuit against the Big East on hold while the league's suit plays out in Rhode Island. So nothing has changed there.
It's just a bit curious. One source said the schedule could be released on the Big 12's website today or Friday. One report said the Big 12 would release its schedule next week. Mediation ordered by a Rhode Island judge, however, isn't scheduled until Feb. 9.
If, by the way, you've wondered how the Big East is handling the scheduling issue, a call was placed to the league's associate commissioner, John Paquette. He was asked when the Big East schedules were forthcoming.
After a long pause, he answered.
"Did you hear the silence?" he said. "That's because I'm not sure yet. We don't have a particular date."
The Big 12 has shown that to be its case as well.
While Luck was on the line, I asked about his rumored candidacy in regard to the Big 12 commissioner position. Neinas has been serving on an interim basis.
"I'd rather be on the search committee," Luck said.
He was asked point-blank if he's interested in the Big 12 job.