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

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck talks bravely about the Mountaineers' excitement over joining the Big 12 and lack of trepidation over the geography challenge.

Luck just got in the conference officially this week. He's not going to start making demands any time soon.

Luck said there are “no real cultural issues” with West Virginia joining the Big 12. “I've answered a lot of questions over the last couple of months from our fan base, ‘do we fit in?' No. 1, the answer is absolutely yes.”

Luck consistently has noted West Virginia's commonality with the Oklahoma schools, the Kansas schools and Iowa State. Land-grant universities in college towns with state-wide passion from alums and fans.

“In a perfect world, you do have neighbors that are close,” Luck said. “But I don't think we'll miss the close geography.”

Luck said the Mountaineers fly to most football and basketball games in the Big East anyway. Once you're on a plane, you're on a plane.

Of course, fans are different. Fans can hop in a car and get to Rutgers and Cincinnati and Louisville with relative ease. Not so with Stillwater and Waco.

Building that bridge would make the entire West Virginia experience a little more stable. The Mountaineers would feel a little more at home immediately in the Big 12. The quicker you start feeling at home, the quicker a place indeed becomes your home.

Luck noted that the Big East for 20 years has had a school on a virtual island – Miami, then South Florida, after Miami went to the ACC.

But that's exactly the point. Miami never really meshed with the Big East. Miami was a football school in a basketball league, 900 miles from its closest neighbor. Miami eventually fled. South Florida hasn't fled, but neither has USF meshed with its northern comrades, and the Big East now, on the eve of destruction, has added some southern tint.

Again, this is not about expanding back to 12. Save that debate for later. I want the Big 12 to get back to a dozen schools, but that's not this issue.

Go to 11 and stick for awhile. See how that goes. Heck, keep the round-robin football schedule. Play 10 conference games, ask every school to play a marquee non-conference game and rumdum if they wish.

You talk about football inventory. The networks would go ga-ga. Whatever money is lost by slicing Louisville another piece of the pie might be recouped by increased rights fees.

Plus you've got Louisville basketball, and Louisville's overall athletic department, and a college-crazy television market (Louisville is the nation's No. 1 college basketball market for television ratings; give the city a reason to get excited about football and it will).

Louisville would be a solid addition for the Big 12. Even more, Louisville would be a wonderful message for West Virginia. You're part of us.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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...
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