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Adding Louisville would be Big 12's bridge to West Virginia

Mountaineers' closest conference port will be 870 miles — Ames, Iowa. Admitting Louisville to the Big 12 might make West Virginia feel more at home.
by Berry Tramel Published: February 16, 2012

Back in October, conference realignment reached all the way to the U.S. Capitol.

The body that produced the likes of Henry Clay and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the body that debated Manifest Destiny and civil rights, moved on to the serious matter of who should replace Missouri in the Big 12.

Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell pulled strings for Louisville. West Virginia senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin pushed back for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia won.

But for the righteous answer to the West Virginia/Louisville debate, we turn to that great American statesman, Deion Sanders.

Football or baseball? Offense or defense? Stuffed crust or pepperoni? $20 million or $15 million? West Virginia or Louisville?

Both. The Big 12 should bring in Louisville along with West Virginia.

Not necessarily to get back to 12 schools, two divisions and a championship football game.

Not necessarily to just add Louisville's successful and varied athletic program.

Not necessarily to add Louisville's top-50 television market.

The Big 12 needs Louisville because West Virginia needs a neighbor. The Big 12 needs Louisville, because this West Virginia thing needs to work for long-term conference stability.

Truth is, the Big 12 has been solid at reactive. Rotten at proactive, but solid at reactive.

Nebraska and Colorado bolt? Dan Beebe gets the television networks to commit the same money for 10 schools it was paying 12 schools.

The Longhorn Network threatens to blow the league to smithereens? Texas agrees to equitable revenue sharing on the network contracts and backs off that high school content.

Missouri and A&M fly the coop? TCU and West Virginia replace them quickly and more than adequately.

The Big 12 handles itself pretty well in a crisis. The Big 12 emerges from anarchy battered but unbowed.

But avoiding anarchy? Maintaining calm instead of commerce? Not so much. The Big 12 dwells in disorder.

That has got to stop, else one day this league won't rise from its death bed. The Big 12 must be proactive in dealing with potentially divisive issues, and one of those issues is geography.

West Virginia is on an island in the Big 12. Morgantown, W.Va., sits hard by the Appalachian Mountains. Three hours west of Baltimore.

West Virginia U. is 870 miles from its nearest fellow Big 12 port, Ames, Iowa. West Virginia U. is 1,465 miles from Lubbock, Texas.

Long-distance relationships seldom work. That's why London doesn't have an NFL franchise nor Beijing an NBA team.

West Virginia's euphoria over leaving the football-inferior Big East can only last so long. At some point, the newness will rub off, and West Virginia will wonder why it's in a league in which two thirds of its opponents are in the Oklahoma/Texas oil patch.

The Big 12 has got to build a bridge to West Virginia. Has got to build connectivity to its eastern brother. Let the Mountaineers know they're not just an emergency solution, they are conference cornerstones. Be proactive in creating stability.

Louisville can be that bridge. A familiar face. A close rival (400 miles; same distance from Norman to Austin). A cultural confidant (Kentucky and West Virginia are border states, with similar histories, landscapes and economies).

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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