Ostensibly, the Mountaineers would be replacing Missouri. Missouri is widely believed to be negotiating the terms of its realignment from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference. Earlier this week, the deals appeared to be all done but the signing.
Until WVU’s Big East rival Louisville somehow entered the picture. Louisville happens to have a very famous son – US Senator Mitch McConnell (R – KY). In the interview, Manchin stops just short of accusing McConnell of impropriety in meddling with the deal struck between the Mountaineers’ program and the Big 12:
Manchin is upset because “it was a done deal” and is threatening to conduct a Senate hearing.
That’s all the realignment circus needs—a fourth ring in Senate hearing room.
It is perfectly fine for US Senators to lobby conference officials on behalf of the schools in their state. That is a part of living in a republic. It is quite another to fly off the handle like Manchin did, all but accusing McConnell of wrongdoing and threatening action on Capitol Hill. You have other, more important things to occupy the official Senate calendar with, sir.
What likely gave Oklahoma’s David Boren a start is the fact that as Senate Minority Leader, McConnell is arguably the most powerful man in Congress. When a guy like that wants to speak with you, you answer the phone. And if he asks you to give a matter a little extra thought, you hit the pause button for a few days.
This is exactly what I believe took place. McConnell, reacting to constituents (i.e., Louisville boosters), gave Boren a call and asked him to make sure the Big 12 was sure it was doing the right thing by inviting West Virginia over Louisville. In the collegial spirit of modern day politics, Boren agreed to do so.
When the final whistle blows, I think the West Virginia move is as done as Missouri’s move to the SEC. Everyone’s minds seem to be made that these are the right moves for those involved and the only thing left to do is negotiate the dollars and the details.