MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A joint announcement from Texas and Oklahoma made the worst-kept secret in college football official: the two gridiron powers are leaving the Big 12 Conference in a move that is shaking up the sport.
As another round of conference realignment now appears imminent, Governor Jim Justice is in WVU’s corner. In an exclusive interview, he said he’ll do whatever he can to ensure that WVU ends this saga in a favorable position.
“They know I’m all in,” Justice said. “We don’t want a bad outcome on this.”
The governor noted that he hasn’t spoken formally on the topic with WVU president E. Gordon Gee because the situation is still in its infancy. He added that he wished WVU would have landed in the ACC during the previous wave of realignment a decade ago.
If a move to the ACC is on the table for the Mountaineers this time, and he can help seal the deal, he will.
“People, literally, in the outside world need to just see what a diamond that WVU is,” Justice said. “We sure don’t need to get left out again, so I’ll do anything and everything I can to help facilitate that to a good ending.”
WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons released his own statement late Monday, echoing the same sense of disappointment in the departing parties that is permeating throughout the conference.
“As was stated earlier by the Big 12 Conference, athletics is an ever-changing landscape,” Lyons said. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Big 12 and across the country to navigate this new terrain.”
Presidents of other remaining Big 12 schools also sounded off on the day’s events.
Dr. Kayse Shrum, who was named president of Oklahoma State in April, alleged that Texas and Oklahoma had been working with the SEC for months to develop an exit plan.
“We believe these conversations, which developed over a long period of time, are in clear breach of the bylaws of the Big 12 Conference and broke a bond of trust between our universities in existence for decades,” Shrum said via Twitter.
She also tweeted that Oklahoma’s decision to leave the Big 12 — and abandon its in-state rival — harms Oklahoma State.
“Nevertheless we are turning our eyes to the future and looking at what is best for Oklahoma State University,” Shrum said.
A joint statement from Kansas State athletics director Gene Taylor and university president Richard Myers echoed a previous Big 12 statement of unity between remaining members.
“We have terrific leadership at the conference, university and state board of regent levels, and our fans should know that every effort is being made to put Kansas State and the Big 12 Conference in the best position moving forward,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, a statement from Texas Tech president Lawrence Schovanec acknowledged that the Red Raiders have benefitted from competing in the Big 12.
“Rest assured that as we move forward, we will continue to spare no effort to strengthen our position within intercollegiate athletics, engage our fan base, position the university for success, and provide the financial means to sustain our athletics programs at the highest level,” Schovanec said.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also issued a statement Monday, citing that he and the league’s remaining eight members are “disappointed” in the two departing schools.
Texas and Oklahoma are now expected to begin official dialogue with the SEC and join that league soon.