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Conference Realignment Evening Update: And Now Congress Gets Involved

So, wait, Congress is involved in conference realignment now? Why?

Because we're getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan and don't have an unemployment crisis or anything to worry about, so they're moving on to more important things. Honestly, this isn't an entirely ridiculous thing for members of the U.S. Senate to concern themselves with. You're talking tens of millions of dollars for public universities in their state and the potential economic development issues associated with football programs moving around. On the other hand, it looks bad. And believe a political observer when he says there is literally no situation that a state legislature or the U.S. Congress cannot make worse.

How did this happen?

Really, you should just do what a lot of people over the years have done when things get tied in knots: Blame Mitch McConnell. The senator from Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader has nothing better to do with his time than try to leverage Louisville into the Big 12 over West Virginia. Not that McConnell's admitting to doing that or anything. In any case, this has prompted a backlash from the senators from West Virginia -- both of them -- because there's a state that doesn't have other problems it needs to focus on. Sen. Jay Rockefeller:

"The Big 12 picked WVU on the strength of its program -- period. Now the media reports that political games may upend that. That’s just flat wrong. I am doing and will do whatever it takes to get us back to the merits."

Wait -- schools really get picked in conference realignment based on the strength of their programs?

No. Rockefeller is engaging in more than a little bit of hyperbole there. Really, for a member of Congress, he's showing great restraint with that statement.

What can they do?

Well, according to USA Today, they're going to call for one of those ever-useful Congressional investigations. Sen. Joe Manchin:

"If these outrageous reports have any merit -- and especially if a United States Senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made -- then I believe that there should be an investigation in the U.S. Senate, and I will fight to get the truth," Manchin said in a statement. "West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports."

Is there any political risk for them in doing this?

It could cause the people of West Virginia, who generally aren't the most liberal folk in the world, to realize that they've elected two Democratic senators. Beyond that, no.

Why doesn't the Big 12 just take West Virginia anyway, if that's what it wants to do?

Because the Big 12 can't take two steps on a concrete floor without falling through it. Now, we've got a fight going on between the two members who run the conference while the other programs look on in horror heavyweights.

According to a source familiar with the Big 12 Board of Directors teleconference on Tuesday, Texas and Oklahoma aren’t on the same page in expansion, if the league is to take only one school.

West Virginia is preferred by Texas. Louisville is favored by Oklahoma, said the source.

And now T. Boone Pickens has concerns about the Mountaineers, which is no small matter in the Big 12.

How does all this affect the SEC's realignment scenarios?

It might prompt Missouri to run away from the Big 12 more quickly, seeing as how it's more likely to produce a magnificent fireworks show across the night sky than a stable football conference. But Missouri might be in a bit of a spot there -- Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton is leaving for India soon, which means we might have to hear something by Monday or wait until at least Nov. 10.

Thanks for making me feel like Congress getting involved was only the second-worst development today in the realignment saga.

I do what I can.

Read all of Team Speed Kills' conference realignment coverage.