West Virginia Football: Did the Mountaineers Give Up Too Much to Join Big 12?
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Did the West Virginia Mountaineers give up too much to break ties with the Big East and join the Big 12, effective July 1, 2012?
What the Mountaineers gave up
What did they give up was $20 million. Yes, while Pittsburgh Athletic Director Steve Pederson made it clear, "Pitt would not consider paying more than the $5 million early exit fee that is written into the Big East bylaws," WVU was fine with a $20 million exit fee.
On yesterday's ABC News website, an AP article was posted confirming the settlement totaling $20 million, but it's still not clear where the money is coming from.
Since last week, when the Mountaineers dropped FSU from their 2012 schedule, and it became clear a settlement was imminent, rumors about WVU putting in $11 million, and the Big 12 adding $9 million started to swirl.
The $9 million figure represents $1 million from the nine other Big 12 teams. It still isn't clear whether WVU will have to pay back the money.
It was mentioned on the ABC News site that Oliver Luck said " WVU should get about $18 million to $19 million a year in television payouts, about double what it gets from the Big East."
It's hard to judge the accuracy of this statement because the payouts are going to change when the Big East signs its new television deal a year from now.
Did WVU give up too much?
Luck explained that payments in the Big 12 for WVU will be prorated for the first three years at 50 percent, 67 percent and 87 percent, reaching 100 percent in the fourth year.
So the Mountaineers might be strapped for cash until they've reached Year 3 or 4 of their new contract.
But WVU gave up more than money: There's a good chance they gave up a legitimate shot at making the National Championship Game next season.
As a member of the Big East in 2012, the Mountaineers toughest game would have been at Florida State. They'd have to play at Louisville, at team they lost to this season, but most of the other games in the Big East were manageable.
Games with Rutgers and Cincinnati were both at home.
Now that the Mountaineers are members of the Big 12, they can expect a much more difficult schedule in 2012.
While Cincinnati was the only team, on what would have been their 2012 Big East schedule, that finished ahead of FSU in last season's final rankings, WVU will now have to play five teams from the Big 12 that finished ahead of FSU.
While No. 21 Cincinnati only finished slightly above No. 23 FSU, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 12 Baylor, No. 13 TCU, No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 16 Kansas State all finished substantially higher.
As one can see, this list of Big 12 powers doesn't even include Texas.
If the Mountaineers, currently ranked No. 7 in an early 2012 ESPN poll, make it to the BCS Championship Game next season, they will have done it the hard way.
What else did the Mountaineers give up? It was easier for their fans to make the trip to a lot of their road games while a member of the Big East.
And what about the Back Yard Brawl? The AP article reported "Luck didn't rule out the possibility of a non-conference game against arch rival Pitt after the 2012 season but said that both schools have nine conference games, and a matchup would be 'difficult to schedule.'"
So much for tradition.
Why did the Mountaineers have to leave this year?
The New York Daily News' Dick Weis may have said it best: "The Big 12 has reportedly told West Virginia it needs the Mountaineers in the league to secure its lucrative TV Deal."
So while Pitt and Syracuse have so far made no effort to exit before their Big East contracts end after the 2013 season, WVU couldn't wait.
The ACC never put any type of pressure on Pitt and Syracuse to break their Big East contracts and leave early; apparently, the Big 12 made it clear to WVU they needed them now.
And it wasn't just that there was pressure on WVU from the Big 12, there was internal pressure on WVU to find some stability, a place to land when the musical conferences game ended.
The ACC made it clear to the Mountaineers they were not welcomed, and the Big Ten never brought up their name when it was thought it might jump to 14 or 16 teams.
Rutgers and UConn were repeatedly mentioned as possible additions to both these conferences.
But will it be stability WVU finds in the Big 12 or more uncertainty down the road? This is a conference that's seen four of its founding members (Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, and Texas A & M) leave in the last two years for what they envision as greener pastures: the Big Ten, the SEC, and the PAC-12.
And speaking of the PAC-12, whenever further expansion of that conference has been brought up haven't the first two names on its list of prospects been the two flagship teams of the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma?
The art of breaking a contract
Breaking a contract, and walking away with most everything one wants, is a skill, an art, and that's exactly what Oliver Luck and the Mountaineers did, and they did it well.
But there's one question that remains. Did they give up too much?
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