West Virginia Creates Scheduling Mess For Big East, Big 12

Published on: December 15, 2011 | Written by: Clay Travis

The SEC will release its official schedule early next week. That schedule will be for 14 teams, including Texas A&M and Missouri. That will put to rest scheduling issues in the SEC, but it will further crystallize existing scheduling issues in the Big 12 and the Big East. Namely, who will blink first when it comes to where West Virginia will play in 2012. The Big East and the Big 12 can't finalize their football schedules until that issue is decided.

It's a huge mess, particularly because football schedules are generally hammered out several years in advance. Those schedules are hammered out several years in advance because of all the complexities required in getting multiple teams, dates, and events all to fit.   

It's especially an issue in the Big 12 where every school plays every other school in the conference. That is, there are nine conference games played among the ten teams. Except right now there are only nine teams that can be reliably scheduled in the Big 12. So who will blink first? Will the Big 12 go ahead and announce a schedule including West Virginia? Or will the Big 12 plan on an eight game conference slate leaving every school required to buy an additional game on short notice?

If that's the plan it could end up costing the Big 12 schools millions.

Who will be on the hook for that payout? It should be the conference, not the individual schools who relied upon the conference being able to put together a nine-game conference slate.

How much longer can the Big 12 wait on its schedule?

Reached for comment by OKTC the Big 12 offered this cryptic reply as to when its new schedule would be released: "The process of re-building the 2012 schedule to account for the departure of two programs and the addition of two new members is on-going."

Although, it does appear clear that the Big 12 is planning on including West Virginia based on this statement.  

Meanwhile, how much longer can the Big East wait on its schedule?

Reached for comment the Big East office said it did not publicly release its schedule until late February but it declined comment on what plans, if any, the conference has to include or not include West Virginia in that slate of games.

Right now the Big East seems hopeful that litigation with West Virginia will drag on long enough to keep the Mountaineers from leaving for the Big 12 in 2012.

Since the Big East only has eight teams for football -- including West Virginia -- the Big East schools are in an even more difficult situation than the Big 12, how do you fill six games, fully half your schedule, if West Virginia isn't playing in the conference? With buy-in games costing up to a million dollars a year now, the Big East schools face a real financial issue as it pertains to completing their schedules. West Virginia may well be on the hook for whatever costs the other Big East members ensue as a result of the Mountaineer departure. That could be six or seven million dollars by itself.

As if that wasn't enough complexity there are also issues with the football conference dipping beneath eight members. A seven-team Big East would need a waiver to maintain an automatic BCS bid. Dipping below 8 would only be a temporary situation since the Big East adds members in 2013, but it's still a complexity.

Could we end up with a situation where the Big East releases a football schedule including West Virginia and the Big 12 does as well?

Nothing would surprise me at this point.

Needless to say, West Virginia is turning in to quite a mess for the Big 12 and the Big East.

Who is the Solomon who will split the West Virginia baby?

Here's a tip, the conference that's first to include West Virginia in its schedule gains legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

In fact, if I was running the Big 12, I'd call the Big East's bluff and announce a full 2012 football schedule including West Virginia. That's where the Mountaineers are headed and I still believe that there's no legal way the Big East can compel West Virginia to participate in the conference against its will. I also don't believe any judge would order that specific performance under the Big East contract. As a general rule, courts are loathe to order specific performance of a contract in any setting that does not involve real estate transactions.  It would be without precedent for a school to be required to play an entire season in a conference it didn't want to be a member of. 

So the likely outcome of all of this mess is simply that West Virginia will pay an increased exit fee for breaching the Big East's contract and will play in the Big 12 for 2012. (I'd expect West Virginia's final Big East bill to be around $14 million).

If all of this sounds like something that should have been resolved prior to now, you're right. It should have. Especially now that we're about to enter the 2012 calendar year without the Big East or the Big 12 able to release football schedules.  

But the Big 12 was, not surprisingly, unprepared for the difficulty of adding West Virginia. We know this because, you guessed it, the Big 12 didn't anticipate the litigation surrounding West Virginia's exit.

Missouri's chancellor Brady Deaton discussed this in an extensive interview on conference expansion that you can and should read at the Columbia Daily Tribune.

"We made an application to the SEC after having phone calls of assurance from the Big 12 commissioner and chair of the board that it was OK to do that from their standpoint," Deaton said. "We then, later on, got a call that said, 'Oh, well, you know, we’re not sure because of this, that and the other because West Virginia might have difficulty.' I said to them, 'Look, you set things in motion. We set things in motion. We’re continuing down this pathway. We feel certainly within our rights to do that within our bylaws.'"

So the Big 12 granted Missouri the right to leave and then tried to rescind that right?

Good Lord.

Just when you think the Big 12 can't get any more dysfunctional, it does.

So will the Big 12 call the Big East's bluff and go ahead with releasing a 2012 schedule featuring West Virginia? Or will the Big 12 have to instruct its conference teams to leave gaps on the schedule in case West Virginia can't get away? Will the Big East play just six conference games in 2012 and have to play six out of conference games? Or will the Big East roll the dice that litigation worries will keep West Virginia from leaving in 2012?

Stay tuned for the latest episode of "As West Virginia Turns."

(Cue the dueling banjos).