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Big East says West Virginia is leaving for Big 12

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 04:49 AM

The Big East said Friday it has been notified that West Virginia is leaving the conference and joining the Big 12.

It appeared earlier in the week that the Big 12 had settled on West Virginia as its replacement for Missouri, which is likely leaving for the Southeastern Conference. But West Virginia's Big East rival Louisville briefly re-entered the picture and the Mountaineers' invitation to the Big 12 was put on hold temporarily.

In the end the extra time didn't pay off for the Cardinals.

West Virginia will be the 10th member of the Big 12, and Louisville will remain in the Big East, which is hoping to transform itself into a 12-team football conference that will include Boise State.

"The move by West Virginia does not come as a surprise. League officials, members or our conference and the candidate schools to whom we have been talking were aware of this possibilty," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement released by the conference. "We have taken West Virginia’s possible departure into account as we have moved forward with our own realignment plans."

The decision by the Big 12 caps a strange week of conference realignment that included West Virginia officials on Tuesday preparing a press release and planning a news conference to announce its conference switch, then being told later that day to put those plans on hold.

Louisville made a late push for inclusion that reportedly involved a phone call from Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Louisville alum, to Big 12 officials.

That set off West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who threatened a senate investigation if it were found that another lawmaker had stood in the way of the Mountaineers move.

Then late Thursday night, the SEC inadvertently posted on its website that Missouri was joining the league. The conference said no agreement has been reached with the school, but it was yet another sign that it's just a matter of time that the Tigers will follow Texas A&M and leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas has said the conference is likely to stick with 10 schools — at least for this round of realignment.

Now, the focus shifts to the Big East and how it plans to rebuild. It has been courting Boise State, Navy and Air Force as football-only members and SMU, Houston and Central Florida as all-sports members.

Currently, the only schools staying in the Big East that play football are South Florida, Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Connecticut. In September, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced that they were moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference

With the loss of West Virginia, it needs one more team to reach 12. Temple had been considered before Big East officials settled on the Texas schools from Conference USA.

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