MORGANTOWN - There were certainly other factors that played into the three-day delay in arranging the marriage between West Virginia and the Big 12, but political posturing and lobbying aside, there was also a very real concern on the part of the Big 12.
What would happen if West Virginia was admitted and Missouri did not withdraw?
The answer to Missouri's part of the equation remains up in the air, but West Virginia's part in it all was stamped and approved Wednesday when Big 12 officials arrived in Morgantown for the official marriage of the two.
Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas and other league officials took part in a reception Wednesday in the Touchdown Terrace reception area of Mountaineer Field, where Neinas officially handed the paperwork to WVU president James Clements.
"Jim, you asked me when you'd be admitted to the Big 12 Conference,'' Neinas said to Clements to start the proceedings. "Well, here are the admission papers.''
But while that closed the books on West Virginia joining the Big 12, there are still a lot of details to be worked out regarding the school's exit from the Big East. WVU on Monday filed suit against the Big East to escape that league's 27-month waiting period, and the Big East immediately vowed to fight back.
The bottom line is that West Virginia was admitted to the Big 12 effective July 1, 2012, but there is no guarantee the school will be able to escape the Big East by then.
As messy and awkward as that could be in the coming months, and as crucial as it will be to the school's immediate future, Clements and WVU athletic director Oliver Luck steadfastly refused to comment on the suit during Tuesday's ceremony.
But there is also the issue of membership numbers in the Big 12 to consider. Neinas insists that was the major hang-up when WVU was first informally approved as a Big 12 member on Monday and Tuesday of last week, then the process was halted for three days before an official invitation was extended last Friday.
West Virginia is scheduled to replace Missouri in the Big 12. Missouri is widely thought to be headed to the Southeastern Conference, but has yet to officially withdraw from the Big 12.
"What happened was we talked about adding West Virginia as a 10th member, and the executive committee said, 'Well, Missouri hasn't withdrawn yet,' '' Neinas said Tuesday. " 'What happens if Missouri stays or delays its withdrawal or we can't work things out?' So what we had to do was develop an 11-team [football] schedule for next year. And then when the board reconvened we explained it to them and we went forward.''
The Big 12 is apparently ready for either scenario. If Missouri leaves, the league can go ahead with a 10-team round-robin schedule that is expected to be the norm in future years. But if Missouri's exit is delayed or the school goes against all of the general consensus and decides to remain in the Big 12, that can be handled, too.
"The bottom line is we can take care of 11 teams if necessary,'' Neinas said. "We can do it. We don't have it on paper, but our computers will work it out to provide a schedule which will accommodate 11 teams.''
As to when a decision has to be made, Neinas said that was pretty simple.
"The situation is that it rests with Missouri,'' Neinas said.
Among other notes from Wednesday's ceremony, which included WVU's pep band and cheerleaders:
Even at 50 percent, though, Luck simply said, "Yes,'' when asked if that amount would still exceed normal 100 percent shares in the Big East.
"We're just becoming familiar with the bylaws of the Big 12,'' Luck said. "There are lots of details we have to look at. ... At this point I don't want to say yes or no [regarding the need to add sports] because I'm just becoming familiar with the bylaws of the Big 12.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.