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What Are WVU’s Options Now That the Big 12 is Collapsing?

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With the Big 12 seemingly dissolving overnight, what makes the most sense for West Virginia now?

Oklahoma and Texas are out, headed for the SEC as early as next week. With just eight members left in the Big 12 now, all not really moving the needle much in terms of national prestige, adding members from the AAC or Pac 12 seems unlikely to keep the Big 12 alive. Even if the Big 12 survives this, WVU should want out. It appears that other Big 12 members are already reaching out to gauge other conferences’ interest in adding them.

The Big 12 provided a good landing spot when the Big East collapsed, but it’s time for WVU to find a new conference. What are those options?

ACC

The ACC and WVU are a match made in heaven. Proximity, rivalries and a more natural fit for WVU than the Big 12 highlight the benefits for WVU.

With a renewal of the Backyard Brawl, WVU and Pittsburgh would be able to reunite as natural rivals. Playing teams like Virginia Tech, Miami (that already have previous ties), and schools that are, you know, not halfway across the country should add intrigue at a level outside West Virginia. Geographically, with actual money-making rivalries already in place, the ACC would be a perfect fit for WVU.

WVU’s prestige has risen in the decade since their move from the Big East to the Big 12, and WVU’s academics shouldn’t be a problem. In the arms race to likely scoop up Big 12 leftovers, the ACC would do well to invite WVU.

With almost $500 million in revenue last season, the ACC was the lowest generating conference in 2020 — aside from the Big 12 — but there’s potential for added revenue if the ACC were to add a few teams. With a TV deal that runs through 2036, the conference would need to add new teams in order to get a new deal.

Arguably the most top-heavy conference in football, with Clemson the only “true” powerhouse, WVU would be in contention with the likes of North Carolina, Miami, Florida State, Virginia Tech for positioning toward the top of the conference. In basketball, Duke, UNC, Virginia, Florida State headline a loaded conference, and WVU’s basketball prowess wouldn’t be out of place.

Big 10

The Big 10 is the other “secure” conference in the recent realignment chaos, and while WVU would do well to join Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and others in the conference, it doesn’t seem likely — at least, not as likely as the ACC.

WVU isn’t the academic powerhouse that could be required to join the conference. WVU football and basketball wouldn’t move the needle much for the Big 10, so it’s not as if the Big 10 would be rolling out the red carpet to welcome them to the conference. WVU does have proximity in their favor, being not far from Penn State or Ohio State.

As college football’s leading revenue generator last season, edging out even the SEC with $768.9 million in 2020, WVU’s financial gain would be the greatest in the Big 10. The Big 10’s TV deal will end in 2023, and the potential for a massive new deal is high.

So, while the Big 10 would be a superb landing spot for WVU, it doesn’t seem all that likely the Big 10 will be in a hurry to invite the Mountaineers.

WVU isn’t going to be competing for conference titles in the Big 10, and while WVU basketball would be a good addition to the conference, the Mountaineers aren’t likely to start racking up conference titles in the Big 10.

Other

The Pac 12 shouldn’t be a consideration for WVU. With even worse proximity than the Big 12, and a conference that is still working to drum up revenue in hopes of a bigger TV deal, WVU would add nothing to the Pac 12. As for the SEC, with 16 teams when Oklahoma and Texas join, WVU being an afterthought — unless teams end up leaving the conference.

The AAC or MAC could be options if a Power Five move falls through, but WVU should obviously do all it can to land with another Power Five conference.

WVU’s best bet would be for Athletic Director Shane Lyons to be reaching out to the ACC and hoping for an invite before the Big 12 implodes in the coming weeks.

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