With West Virginia officially heading west to the Big 12, the press release from the Big 12 Conference and West Virginia have stated that the Mountaineers will begin Big 12 play in the 2012-2013 season. But as we've been hearing for the past several weeks, Big East commissioner John
Moronatto Marinatto has said multiple times that Pitt and Syracuse (and presumably West Virginia) will be held to the league's mandatory 27-month waiting period.
BlueGoldNews.com, the West Virginia Scout site, has tweeted that Pitt can leave the conference this season should they pay the Big East $21 million. We can assume that Syracuse and WVU were also offered similar deals, assuming the rumor is true. And you know that if one school gets out, they're all getting out or the remaining schools will lawyer up within hours and end up getting out early anyways. WVU president James Clements wasn't shy about announcing his intentions during WVU's introductory press conference.
"Our intent is clearly July 1 we will be a member of the Big 12," Clements said. "Our team and their team are in discussions about how to make that happen."
So what are the chances that the Panthers, Mountaineers, and Orange all begin play in their new conferences for next season?
Well, with more and more Big East members looking to jump ship (it's a possibility that Notre Dame may be taking their non-football sports out of the Big East and into the Big 12. And don't put to rest the thought of Louisville or Cincy or USF possibly finding their way to the Big 12 or Rutgers/UConn to the ACC), it's looking more and more likely ... especially if the Big East loses another program. Slick Rick Pitino could be right:
"If Louisville had left the Big East was over. Nobody was going to come in. I told him to be fired up and go get those teams."
If Louisville were to leave the Big East as well, the conference is done. Heck, I didn't even think it could survive after Pitt and Cuse announced they were taking their talents to the ACC. Now after the Big East will lose their 3 most historically significant programs, the Big East will obviously never be the same.
Now, $21 million does seem a little high. Pitt likely could afford it, especially with the increased amount they would receive upon starting conference play in the ACC (around $15 million a year). And although that's the initial amount, realignment over the past year has shown us that the leaving members can haggle their way down to more manageable fees, so I wouldn't say money is a major factor in staying another year or not. I strongly feel that if Steve Pederson or Mark Nordenberg were given the chance to jump to the ACC next season, they would do so.
Perhaps the Providence gang has decided enough is enough. As Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com's Big East writer, says, the Big East has become a conference of convenience. But now that the current members include UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida, and Louisville, the Big East can't expect the football conference to last. Do they think Boise State and Air Force are really going to be happy doing cross country trips to Tampa, Storrs, or Piscataway every other season? And how sure are they that any of the current members won't decide to be the next defection? As sad as it is, it may be time for the Big East to move on.