West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, center, is mobbed by teammates Devin...

West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, center, is mobbed by teammates Devin Ebanks, left, and Kevin Jones after shooting the game-winning 3-point basket over Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson in the second half of the Big East quarterfinals. West Virginia won 54-51. (March 11, 2010) Credit: AP

Although the move was expected at some point, West Virginia’s reported defection to the Big 12 is another in a series of blows to the Big East. The Mountaineers have been one of the conference’s most versatile programs, with solid and tradition-rich football and basketball programs.

Multiple media reports have West Virginia being accepted to the Big 12, which is reportedly on the verge of losing Missouri to the SEC.

ESPN reported formal approval could happen as early as Tuesday evening. 

So what does this mean for the Big East? It means the conference will have to work that much harder to convince current and future teams that the Big East is the place to be.

There are some (including this writer) who believe the Big East will land on its feet, especially in basketball. The loss of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia will certainly shrink the league’s profile, but there is enough of a foundation to keep things together.

There are currently eight teams in the league –St. John’s, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul– that don’t play football, play at the FCS level, or as an independent.

Even if the worse case scenario occurs and all of the FBS programs bolt and dissolve the football league, the Big East will simply do what all of the other BCS conferences have done and raid another league. Schools like Xavier, Temple, UMass and Rhode Island could all end up in the Big East for basketball.

Temple was reportedly a backup plan if the Big East were to be rebuffed by Houston, SMU, Navy and a couple of other schools it sent invites to. Those plans could change if other schools like Rutgers and Connecticut find another home.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto told Newsday in an exclusive interview last week that the conference is prepared to adjust.

Said Marinatto: “So as we try and reconfigure, however it is we need to, we know we have that inherent flexibility since we have schools that football at the [FBS] level and some that don’t.”


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