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West Virginia appears headed to the Big 12 Conference

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University has applied for membership to the Big 12 Conference and has been accepted, multiple sources familiar with both sides of negotiations told the Daily Mail Tuesday.

The Mountaineers are expected to be the Big 12's 10th team and replace the Missouri Tigers, who are believed to be ready to withdraw from the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference.

If Mizzou unexpectedly decides to stay, WVU will bring the Big 12 to 11 schools.

The details of WVU's move were being finalized Tuesday. That included the specific date for WVU to leave the Big East Conference and join the Big 12, but sources told the Daily Mail the decision to move has been approved on both sides.

WVU personnel met Tuesday to spread the word across the athletic department and discuss the resolution.

The Big 12's board of directors met Tuesday to detail the WVU plan, according to a Big 12 source. An official announcement remains in the works.

Despite earlier indications Tuesday, WVU released a statement later in the evening that there would be no press conference today.

WVU could be subjected to the Big East's exit fee and might have to wait 27 months before departing, but separate sources said the Big 12 and WVU both hope the Mountaineers will be in its new conference for the 2012-13 athletic year.

WVU was part of a unanimous vote last week to increase the Big East exit fee from $5 million to $10 million once it added a school. However, WVU will have to pay $5 million because no team has joined the Big East.

If the Big East were to announce an addition before WVU announced it was joining the Big 12, WVU would have to pay $10 million, but a person close to the process said the university is confident that will not happen.

A move to the Big 12 will be celebrated as an athletic and academic upgrade by WVU, but also as a major financial improvement. In the Big 12, WVU's athletic department stands to make more than twice what it made as a Big East member in 2010-11.

For that year, the Mountaineers made $7.049 million in revenue sharing from television, bowls, NCAA basketball tournament monies and other contributions. This year, members of the 10-team Big 12 will make an average of $15 million each from television contracts alone.

In 2009-10, the Big 12 reported $148.9 million in total revenue from television contracts, bowl games, NCAA Tournaments and other items. The Big East reported $113.3 million.

WVU follows Syracuse, Pitt and Texas Christian University out of the Big East. The Orange and Panthers said last month they would join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Horned Frogs will be with WVU in the reconstituted Big 12, which previously lost Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Texas A&M (and now Missouri) to the SEC.

With the Mountaineers leaving, the Big East, which lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC in the last round of expansion, has only Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers and Connecticut as football members.

The Big East decided last month it wanted to grow to 12 members. In a meeting last week, the league is believed to have targeted Boise State, Air Force and Navy for football only and Central Florida, Southern Methodist and Houston for all sports.

It will need another all-sports addition to replace WVU to get back to 12 football schools. Speculation is centered on Temple and East Carolina.

Joining the Big 12 changes many things for the Mountaineers, particularly in football, which has driven this decision.

WVU football Coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached in the Big 12 at Texas Tech from 2000-07 and Oklahoma State in 2010, said the football there is not like what it is in the Big East.

"It's different," he said. "If you look at all the Big 12 teams - Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State - they're all spread teams. At Kansas State, Coach (Bill) Snyder is still doing things the way he did them for 40 years, which has obviously been incredibly successful.

"I'm only two games into the Big East, but based on what I've seen, it's a little different. I do think the movement is coming east. If you look at what we're bringing in at West Virginia, Pitt, Louisville and Cincinnati, there's a shift to where we're becoming a little more open, so to speak. It's still a tougher, old-school mentality, but I do think it's coming this way."

WVU will have no regional rival within the Big 12, which has schools in Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas and Texas. The closest school would be Iowa State, more than 850 miles away. More teams will have to fly to games rather than bus.

The travel costs go beyond the teams and players and affect their family members, who will have to spend more time and money to watch in person.

WVU officials also considered the athletic and academic changes for WVU's so-called Olympic sports.

There is no men's soccer in the Big 12, and Coach Marlon LeBlanc's nationally ranked program will have do something like South Carolina and Kentucky. They belong to the SEC for major sports but play men's soccer in Conference USA.

WVU's volleyball team plays most of its matches that are not tournaments or invitationals on Friday-Sunday schedules. The Big 12 plays those same matches on Wednesdays and weekend days.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142.

 


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