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).
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 email@example.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.