After a last-minute push by Louisville, including soliciting the help of a United States senator, West Virginia is finally set to join the Big 12, according to a report.
West Virginia, a member of the conference since 1991, informed the Big East this morning that it had been offered an invitation to join the Big 12 and had accepted, according to CBS Sports. The Big 12 is expected to make an announcement on Friday afternoon on West Virginia's acceptance into the conference.
West Virginia believed it was accepted into the Big 12 on Tuesday, but a late push by Louisville caused the Big 12 to reconsider its options. After initially telling West Virginia that it was its choice, Big 12 members received calls from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and The New York Times reported it became 50-50 between Louisville and West Virginia.
West Virginia will become the Big 12's 10th member once Missouri leaves for the SEC. Missouri and the SEC have both been mum about the move, but a Web site snafu on Thursday revealed that an official announcement could come as early as next Monday.
West Virginia's move to the Big 12 makes it the fourth school this year to leave the Big East. Pittsburgh and Syracuse agreed to join the ACC in September, while TCU -- which never even played a game in the Big East -- agreed to join the Big 12 in October.
West Virginia, along with the other remaining schools, recently agreed to an exit fee hike of $5 million to $10 million, but the school likely won't infer the higher fee if it is indeed headed to the Big 12.
The exit fee increase is set to take place once addition schools -- Air Force and Navy -- agreed to join the conference, but West Virginia won't incur that additional fee because it is leaving before any additional schools joined the Big East.
West Virginia publicly affirmed its commitment to the Big East, but was always seen as a viable expansion target for the Big 12. West Virginia offers a rabid fan base, strong football and basketball programs, and a strong commitment to non-revenue sports.
West Virginia's move would help solidify the Big 12 at 10 teams and allow it to pursue a Big 12 television network like it mentioned on Monday, but it could be as long as 27 months before the school can officially join the conference.
Big East commissioner John Marinatto has been adamant that would not allow Pittsburgh and Syracuse to leave the Big East earlier than the agreed upon 27-month wait period, which would assumedly apply to West Virginia.
Even if it is able to keep Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia for an additional 27 months, the Big East still faces a dire situation.
The Big East is looking to expand to 12 football-playing schools -- Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Navy and SMU are the likely targets -- but it's unclear whether any school will agree to join the conference. The Big East has recently visited with Air Force and Boise State to discuss the situation and is expected to officially extend invitations on Tuesday, according to the New York Daily News.