The New York Post first reported at 2:39 this morning that West Virginia is set to leave the Big East and join the Big 12. I am honestly not sure about the Post's reporting bona fides (given its tabloid-y nature), which is why I didn't post anything earlier. However, CBS now has a source and Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune now has a source saying the same thing, so it's time to treat this like it's really happening.
The obvious reason why this is big news is because the Big 12 wanted to go with 10 teams if Missouri was going to stay in the conference. CBS says that Mizzou will formally withdraw from the conference soon, with WVU officially becoming a member in the 24-48 hours after that. So yeah: Missouri-to-the-SEC is going to happen not too long from now.
The Post is reporting that the conference wants to keep Missouri around for one more year and then bring WVU in as a replacement in 2013. How they would do that is an interesting question, given that Pitt and Syracuse have to wait until 2014 to join the ACC per the Big East's rules. The Post also says the Big 12 will consider going up to 16 teams, which runs contrary to all the previous reports saying that the conference would only go to 12 if Missouri left. The possible targets are the usual suspects: Louisville, Cincinnati, Boise State and BYU.
If the plan comes to pass as described by the Post report, it explains why the SEC has been focused on a 13-team schedule for 2012 only. The Big 12 would appear to be WVU's third choice, after it was reportedly rejected by the SEC and ACC back in September. A huge question is what Notre Dame would do if the Big East completely dissolved. The Irish are affiliated with the conference in everything but football, and they are included in the Big East when it comes to bowl bids. ND would probably look to get its current arrangement with the ACC first, but if John Swofford says no, the long-expected move of Notre Dame to the Big Ten might actually happen.
Seconds after I hit publish, this story from the New York Times' Pete Thamel came across my Twitter feed again confirming WVU as the Big 12's replacement for Missouri. Contrary to the Post, Thamel says the Big 12 would look to stay at 10 members.
The hangup with Mizzou is of negotiating the Tigers' exit, as the Big 12 has planned on having nine conference games going forward. If the conference has a year or two with nine members, it would obviously have to go with eight conference games. That means schools would have to scramble to find another non-conference opponent, not to mention the fact that the league wouldn't have enough conference games to fulfill its TV contracts.
The Big 12 really can't afford to drop below 10 members, so it will have to get creative given Missouri's desire to leave for next year and the Big East's exit policy that would seem to prevent WVU leaving before 2014.
Read more of Team Speed Kills' conference realignment coverage.