Conference Realignment: West Virginia, Louisville in Big 12 Tussle, Reports Say

LOUISVILLE KY - NOVEMBER 20: Dominique Brown #10 of the Louisville Cardinals is tackled by Doug Rigg #47 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 20 2010 in Louisville Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Who says nobody wants to be a part of the Big 12's internecine warfare? West Virginia's bid to bolt the Big East might be deep-sixed by Louisville, either as part of an effort to win its own place in the league or just to try to keep the Big East running on fumes.

The problem? Louisville Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican who also just happens to be minority leader of the U.S. Senate. A man who has shown himself to be skilled at gumming up the works in the upper chamber, McConnell is now reportedly meddling in conference realignment in his spare time.

A late push by Louisville has put political pressure on the Big 12 and opened the possibility of Louisville’s being the university that is admitted instead of West Virginia. Two people with direct knowledge of the situation said that lobbying by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, including to David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma and a former senator, helped slow West Virginia’s admittance to the Big 12.

ESPN puts things slightly differently, instead saying that things are unsettled because EVERYONE IS WAITING ON MISSOURI and the whole McConnell thing. Oh, and this is the Big 12 -- nothing is ever easy there.

West Virginia has been notified by the Big 12 Conference that its expansion process is on hold, a school source told ESPN's Joe Schad on Wednesday.

The Big 12 is waiting on Missouri formally to withdraw from the conference and that there has been some late "hard lobbying" by Louisville for Big 12 inclusion, the source told Schad.

And the Mountaineers' reaction? They're not talking. And by that, I mean, they are really not talking about it

And by Wednesday morning, WVU officials who were quite willing to discuss the move to the Big 12 off the record had clammed up.

"I'm not talking today,'' said one highly-placed source at the school.

When asked if that signaled trouble with the move to the Big 12, he simply repeated himself.

"I'm not talking today,'' he said before hanging up the phone.

Putting aside the reporter's missed opportunity to make a "clearly you are talking because you're saying something right now" joke, this is a pretty clear sign that things are breaking down. (And a clear sign that, as much as this blog criticized Dan Beebe, it wasn't all the erstwhile former commissioner's fault.)

This could get very, very messy regardless of what Missouri does. Stay tuned.

Read all of Team Speed Kills' conference realignment coverage.

SUPER FUN UPDATE!!

The Kansas City Star has sources saying this is another Texas vs. Oklahoma battle, with the former preferring WVU and the latter preferring Louisville. Because fighting between those two is exactly what that conference needs more of. -Year2

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