West Virginia is expected to receive and accept an offer to join the Big 12 once Missouri's departure to the Southeastern Conference becomes official, sources close to the situation said Tuesday.
Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton told a Columbia, Mo., radio station on Tuesday that his school hopes to announce a decision about its future conference home within two weeks. Missouri is contemplating membership in the Southeastern Conference.
Deaton said he abstained from most of Monday's meeting of Big 12 presidents and did not vote on any issues at the advice of legal counsel. Multiple Big 12 sources have indicated they anticipate an imminent departure by Missouri, with the contingency plan calling for an invitation to be extended to West Virginia as soon as possible after Missouri's departure.
Although a New York Times report quoted a source saying West Virginia had "applied and are accepted" for Big 12 membership, league sources indicated no official bid has been extended -- and will not be -- until the Missouri situation is finalized. One league source said the plan to approach West Virginia is "done."
The Charleston Daily Mail and the Charleston Gazette posted reports on their websites Tuesday about West Virginia's imminent move to the Big 12, saying a formal announcement is expected today. But school officials issued a statement Tuesday night saying no news conference has been set to announce realignment plans.
Under Big East bylaws, a departure could not occur until June 30, 2014, and would require a $5 million exit fee. The exit fee would increase to $10 million if the Big East adds teams before West Virginia departs. But the timetable, at this juncture, would be the same as the 2014 departure date facing fellow Big East members Syracuse and Pittsburgh before they join the ACC.
Big 12 sources indicated they expect some flexibility on West Virginia's departure date once the Big East finds replacement schools. Big East officials are courting multiple schools, including SMU and Houston, in efforts to create a 12-team football league.
Missouri officials have expressed a desire to move to the SEC for the 2012 football season, a timetable that conflicts with the plan outlined Oct. 11 by Chuck Neinas, the Big 12 interim commissioner. Neinas said he envisions Missouri being part of a 10-team Big 12 during the 2012-13 school year, along with newcomer TCU, regardless of where the Tigers anchor their sports teams for the long haul.
One Big 12 source suggested that West Virginia might be able to replace Missouri on the league's 2012 football schedules when the latest wave of expansion is complete. But such a timetable seems unlikely.
From a Big 12 perspective, Neinas and other league officials have stressed that a 10-team configuration for next season is imperative to provide enough games to meet existing contracts with TV partners.
Although the topic was discussed Monday, Big 12 officials have yet to reach a consensus about whether the league should operate as a 10- or 12-member conference for the long haul. If the league moves to 12 teams, the next expansion targets appear to be Louisville and BYU.
Asked Tuesday about a timetable for Missouri's anticipated move, Deaton said: "These are not decisions that can just be made at the press of a button.
"We are not delaying anything beyond what has to be delayed to make the right decision... Our head has to outweigh our heart in achieving some of our objectives because our heart might not lead us in the right direction for the University of Missouri."
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Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760