West Virginia joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012 and nine years later, may be forced to look into searching for a new conference to call home. In case you missed it, yesterday a report surfaced from Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle that both Texas and Oklahoma have reached out to the SEC about joining the conference to form a 16-team league.
The initial thinking behind this is that revenue is the driving force behind the reason for wanting out of the Big 12. However, that's not the case, at least for Oklahoma. According to our good friend, John Hoover at All Sooners on Sports Illustrated, money has little to do with it in the grand scheme of things.
"OU’s problem is that the 11 a.m. time slot has become a premiere window for Big 12 Conference games on Fox Sports and ABC/ESPN. Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show leads into the network’s 11 a.m. broadcast, and to keep the most eyeballs on their programming, Fox has frequently leaned on OU games. So has ABC/ESPN.
"OU has two kickoff times set for 2021 — and both are at 11 a.m. Last year the Sooners had five 11 a.m. kickoffs out of their 11 games. In 2019, OU had six 11 a.m. games, including a grueling stretch of five in a row. And in 2018, Oklahoma had five 11 a.m. kickoffs. That’s 16 morning starts out of 39 total games in the span of three seasons, with more to come."
As much as West Virginia fans hate noon kicks, and rightfully so, you have to understand the frustration coming from Oklahoma. It's not just the kickoff time for the game that they are upset about but having that early of a kick makes it harder for them to recruit nationally. They are unable to bring in guys from different parts of the country because of the early kicks and two high-profile recruits have already had to change which date they are making their visit to Oklahoma because of the kickoff time.
What seemed to really set Oklahoma off was their home game vs Nebraska being set for 11 a.m. This was set to be a weekend where the Sooners were to celebrate the "Game of the Century" and playing a night game in a primetime TV slot is something they have been wanting since the day the two schools agreed to play this game years ago.
“We tried every possible avenue to proactively make our case," Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said in a statement released by Oklahoma. "The Big 12 Conference also supported our strenuous efforts to secure a more traditional time that would honor this game and our fans. However, in the end, our TV partner chose to exercise its full contractual rights and denied our requests.”
Last week at Big 12 media days, Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, didn't seem to care too much about Oklahoma's growing concerns of early morning kicks and that did not sit well with OU.
“He’s certainly entitled to that position,” Bowlsby said, “and he and I talked about it extensively before he made those comments.
“Having said that, we all signed the TV contract. We can change it the next time if we want to change it. But we're going to live by the stipulations of our television agreements and that's what we did on this occasion.”
Should Oklahoma and Texas bolt for the SEC, that will leave the Big 12 with just eight teams remaining and none of which hold enough power to keep the conference at its current status. Would the league search for new teams like BYU? Houston (hey, Dana), or Central Florida? Even if they do, all it does is bring the league back up to 10 teams. It doesn't bring the national relevance back to the league and all of sudden you have a conference that's a mix of Power Five schools with no bluebloods and some smaller schools hoping to make it in the Power Five.
From a geographical standpoint, West Virginia may be in the best position to make its way into a new conference with the ACC and Big Ten right in their backyard. West Virginia has been denied to the ACC in the past but maybe this time around things will change. WVU's facilities are now some of the best you will come across in the country and they are a school that has a long history of winning in both major sports, football, and basketball.
A move by Oklahoma and Texas would put schools like TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, and Kansas in a tough position. Do they go to the Big 10? Do they go to the PAC 12? Or is it a possibility they remain in the league and add three-four more schools? In my opinion, if OU and Texas leave the Big 12, West Virginia will not stick around and wait to see what happens. They want security with a Power conference and staying in a league that at that point would be crumbling apart just doesn't make all that much sense.
To read up more on Oklahoma's stance of potentially leaving the Big 12 Conference, check out some of these links below from John Hoover at All Sooners on SI.
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