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Chuck Landon: WVU exit to Big 12 far from set in stone

Jan. 08, 2012 @ 12:08 AM

The Orange Bowl victory on Wednesday night wasn't the first Bowl Championship Series bowl championship for West Virginia University as a member of the Big East Conference.

And guess what?

It might not be the last.

As much as the Mountaineers shoot off their muskets declaring they will be members of the Big 12 for the 2012 football season. ...

As much as WVU athletic director Oliver Luck vacillates between denigrating the Big East and pontificating on joining the Big 12. ...

As much as WVU officials, athletes and fans want to believe the Big East is in their rear view mirrors and the future is now for Big 12 membership. ...

There's a good chance it won't happen.

Not in 2012 and, perhaps, not ever.

What people don't seem to understand is WVU is on the clock with the Big 12 and it's ticking rapidly. Meanwhile, time is the Big East's ally. The longer these court battles drag on, the less chance WVU will be able to join the Big 12 in 2012.

That's why WVU officials keep trying to push the time-frame.

That's also why Big East officials keep dragging their feet.

It's a timely battle. And it just might be a fight the Mountaineers can't win.

I mean, the court case isn't even scheduled to go to trial until late June. Five days later, WVU is supposed to join the Big 12 officially.

Good luck with that. ... Oliver or otherwise.

That's particularly true now that a Big East official has revealed to The Sporting News publication that the league isn't interested in allowing WVU to buy its way out of its contract.

Not for any amount of money.

"It's not about money," wrote The Sporting News' Matt Hayes, quoting what he referred to as a "high-placed Big East source." "It never has been."

It appears Big East commissioner John Marinatto has dug in his heels. There has been an obvious line in the sand drawn by the Big East.

In fact, the Big East official told The Sporting News there's "no chance" that WVU, Pitt and Syracuse can buy their way out of the existing contracts and leave in time for the 2012 season.

The Big East obviously has every intention of holding WVU to the 27-month notice of withdrawal in the league's bylaws.

If the Big East wins in court it will cause major consequences for any hopes of a WVU move to the Big 12. Does anybody actually believe the Big 12 would wait 27 months on the Mountaineers?

I'm not sure the Big 12 still will take WVU if the Mountaineers aren't on-board for the 2012 season. Remember, that once was a contingency for WVU's potential membership. Then, the league claimed it wasn't.

Don't be surprised if the contingency still exists.

In the meantime, the Big 12 is being held hostage by the legal battles between WVU and the Big East. While all the other BCS leagues are releasing their 2012 schedules, the Big 12 sits idle because it doesn't know whether to include WVU or not.

Furthermore, if WVU isn't a member of the Big 12 in 2012 that would leave the conference with only nine members. That creates a scheduling nightmare that Big 12 officials and member schools won't soon forget.

Despite Luck's redundant rhetoric, the entire situation is a mess. And it appears to be growing worse, not better.

The Big East holds the upper hand.

Until that changes, it doesn't look like WVU is going anywhere.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.