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February 15, 2012

So long, Big East

With legal battles finished, WVU makes move to Big 12

MORGANTOWN — Just a couple of hours after the final “i” was dotted and the final “t” was crossed in the settlement of its legal battle with the Big East Conference, West Virginia University bid the league a fond adieu, said thanks for the memories and opened a new chapter “filled with exciting possibilities for WVU’s future” in the Big 12, according to athletic director Oliver Luck.

The change in conferences will eventually up the Mountaineers’ take from television and bowl revenues from about $8 million with the Big East to a minimum of $16 million and perhaps $18 million from its new conference.

The Big East will be paid approximately $20 million by WVU and the Big 12 for the contested exit.

WVU has already paid $2.5 million of the $11 million it is on the hook for, and sources indicate that the conference will hold any moneys due WVU from this year, including its $2.2 million take from its Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. In all, that could come to as much as the $8.5 million still owed, which would mean little or no more cash would move from WVU to the Big East.

WVU moves into the Big 12 at a graduated revenue rate ... collecting 50 percent the first year, 67 percent the second year, 87 percent the third year and 100 percent from then on. That is the same deal TCU has gotten for moving into the conference and even at 50 percent the Mountaineers figure to match what they would get from the Big East.

Luck said he was not at liberty to discuss the details of the settlement and said he could not estimate what WVU would take home in the future from the deal.

“All I can tell you is the Big 12 revenue sharing is between $18 and $19 million, well over $10 million more than what the Big East is paying out,” he said. “The point here is that it’s a healthy TV payout. It is important we maintain our self-sufficient status.”

The Big 12’s network TV deals are staggering, being in the midst of a deal with ESPN and ABC that pays more than $480 million for eight years and one with Fox that was signed last year that pays $1.17 billion over an 11-year period.

Moments after the settlement of lawsuits filed both in West Virginia and Rhode Island, West Virginia and the Big 12 released their 2012 football schedules.

West Virginia will open its season Sept. 1 against instate rival Marshall, play its first Big 12 game on Sept. 29 in Mountaineer Field against Baylor in a homecoming game that gives alumni a reason to come home, then play as tough an opening road game as could have been given to them on Oct. 6 when the Mountaineers go to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns.

The Big 12 home schedule is as attractive as they could have made it with Kansas State coming in on Oct. 20, TCU on Nov. 3, powerhouse Oklahoma on Nov. 17 and Kansas on Dec. 1, the final game of the regular season.

The annual Backyard Brawl rivalry game with Pitt, the highlight of any season, will not be played this year, and its future in football is quite cloudy.

It is expected that the two schools will continue to find a way to continue playing the basketball series that dates back to 1904.

All West Virginia sports will move into the new conference this season except for rifle, which will remain in the Great American Rifle League, and men’s soccer, a sport the Big 12 does not offer. Luck is looking for a home for this team, which has grown in popularity. He was working on moving it to Conference USA, but that became complicated recently with a merger between that conference the Mountain West Conference.

West Virginia will eventually have to add a sport and is looking into bringing back either golf, men’s tennis or men’s track and field, but this probably will not be done until 2013 or 2014.

Luck says that despite the geography, which does make travel less convenient for teams and fans, the Big 12 is a good fit for the Mountaineers as it is made of universities similar to WVU.

“The members of the Big 12 are much like us, large, public land-grant institutions,” Luck said. “They have excellent academics, are research driven and have a high degree of commonality on and off the athletic field with WVU.

“We understand how challenging this move is,” Luck continued, “going against some schools with great athletic legacies and passionate fan bases.”

The Big 12 includes Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. Texas and Oklahoma, of course, are traditional college football powers, while Oklahoma State has moved into elite status in recent years while Baylor last year with quarterback Robert Griffin III moved in among the elite. Kansas State is also a Top 15 program.

This past year while Texas was unranked, Oklahoma State was third in the nation, Baylor 13th, Kansas State 15th and Oklahoma 16th.

TCU and WVU fit perfectly, TCU ranked 13th last year and WVU 17th.

WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen knows the conference, having come to WVU from Oklahoma State, where he was offensive coordinator.

Basketball coach Bob Huggins also has Big 12 experience, coaching one year at Kansas State before returning to his alma mater at West Virginia.

Kansas has long been a basketball power and this year ranks fourth in the nation, while Baylor is ninth. Texas and Kansas State both are often among the nation’s Top 25 teams.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel at Hotmail. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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