MORGANTOWN — It was a lazy summer afternoon, the kind that screams out for a dip in the pool, a barbecue in the backyard, a cool iced tea and a midday nap.
The one thing you weren’t thinking about was football and certainly not West Virginia’s future in the Big 12 conference.
Oh, WVU football was on your mind for word had come out of Florida that former WVU and Florida State University coach Bobby Bowden, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, had announced he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. An extremely religious man, Bowden also would say that he was “at peace.”
“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”
That was bad enough, but lurking in the shadows was another story that would affect the West Virginia football program and shake the foundation upon which the Big 12 Conference is built.
The Houston Chronicle published a report that Oklahoma and Texas, the heart and soul — and money — of the Big 12 were investigating whether the SEC would be interested in them should they choose to leave the Big 12.
Since 1996, when the Big 12 was formed, Oklahoma has won 14 titles in football and Texas is second to them with three.
According to the Chronicle’s report, the SEC could announce “within two weeks” the addition of the Longhorns and Sooners to what already is college football’s premier conference.
At SEC Media Day, conference commissioner Greg Sankey refused comment on the report, which is certainly not a denial.
If true, it could mean that the entire college football landscape may be come crashing down for that would lead to so many other changes at a time when the sport is undergoing a complete overhaul in its culture.
The sport is toying with expanding from a four-team to a 12-team playoff to begin after the 2022 season and has just lost a lawsuit that allows its players to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness.
Now the stability of the conference structure was being put under pressure, more than what it seems to be at first glance.
To begin with, the Oklahoma Legislature previously passed a resolution that Oklahoma could not go anywhere without Oklahoma State also being involved the proceedings.
There is not only that complication. Texas A&M apparently is not thrilled with the thought of Texas joining the conference. CBS.com’s Dennis Dodd spoke with A&M athletic director Ross Bjork.
“I haven’t read the article, but if you’re asking me to kind of comment on college athletics, it’s changing,” Bjork told Dodd. “So, what does that look like? I don’t know. ... We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas. There’s a reason Texas A&M left the Big 12: to stand alone to have our own identity.”
And Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher, when told the two schools might like to join the SEC, replied:
“I bet they would.”
A 10-team league, the Big 12 suddenly would be down to just seven teams and without much national prestige at all.
Certainly West Virginia would not want to be a part of a Big 12 Conference without its two power teams. Losing them would force the league to scramble for replacements and to work out new deals with television networks and possibly set up a game of musical chairs among the conferences as teams scramble for position.
Also, if true, it would show once again how little control the NCAA has over the sport that provides the bulk of income for the schools who make up the membership.
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