MORGANTOWN - Late last October, when West Virginia struck an agreement to join the Big 12, athletic director Oliver Luck said he was pretty certain that the school would be required at some point to add sports. How many and what they might be, he said, was a question he wouldn't be able to answer until after he'd had a chance to more fully explore the league's bylaws.Well, it's been five months and Luck still doesn't have much more of a grip on what will be required of the school than he did in the fall. Here's the thing, though: The Big 12 isn't sure what will be required, either.It appears the school might only have to add one sport and it will have to be on the men's side. That has been the general consensus all along.But the Big 12 bylaws are in such a mess that it's really hard to tell.
"I think the conference office is probably grateful to us because it's forcing them to take a look at their bylaws,'' Luck said. "I don't think they'd paid much attention to some of the things that are in there.''Fractured might be a good word for the Big 12's current bylaws, although current itself is probably a misnomer. The most recent copy available on the league's website is there as a part of the 2010-11 conference handbook. It still includes Nebraska and Colorado as members.OK, so that's not that big a deal. Let's face it, with the league having lost four members and added two in the last two years, making a new set of bylaws readily available probably isn't a high priority.Consider a few other oddities, though, and the cause for confusion regarding WVU's need to add sports in order to comply is justified,
According to the bylaws, in addition to fulfilling the requirements for Division I FBS football membership (16 sports sponsored, including at least six for men and eight for women), Big 12 members must also sponsor six men's sports and six women's sports from a list the league created that includes sports being sponsored by 10 or more league members.Forget for a moment that when the Big 12 lost Nebraska and Colorado and then Missouri and Texas A&M, the list of sports sponsored by 10 or more schools was rendered pretty much archaic. So that's one thing that has to be addressed.But as for those lists, well, first off the women are OK. On the Big 12's list of nine sports from which six must be sponsored, West Virginia already sponsors seven - basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, tennis, indoor track and outdoor track. The other two on the women's list are softball and golf.But the men's list of required sports lists only seven. WVU sponsors just three - football, basketball and baseball. The others on the list are cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and golf.
Now here's where it really gets fuzzy. West Virginia sponsors seven sports that are not on the Big 12's list of those that are required - wrestling, swimming and soccer for men; gymnastics, rowing and swimming for women; and co-ed rifle. It would be nice if the Big 12 could perhaps add a few of those sports on its list of those required and WVU wouldn't have to add three men's sports.And apparently the Big 12 is ready to do just that. Luck said the league will probably add wrestling, gymnastics and swimming to the list, which would bring WVU up to five out of six men's sports required and to nine women's sports, well above the required six.But then again, go back to those bylaws. According to those, in order for a sport to be considered a championship event in the Big 12, six members must participate. But the league already seems to be violating that. Only three current Big 12 members have wrestling teams, yet the league has a championship tournament among Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa State (Missouri was also involved). And in gymnastics, only Iowa State and Oklahoma are left (Missouri was a third), but there is a Big 12 gymnastics championship.
See how confusing it is?That's one reason why the Big 12 isn't pressing West Virginia to become compliant with the bylaws regarding minimum sports. They're due for a vast overhaul and there's a good chance that when they're rewritten WVU will be close to being good to go. In fact, they might be rewritten with a nod to West Virginia's predicament.In the end, though, Luck knows that he is probably going to have to add that one men's sport. It's likely to come from the Big 12's outdated list of cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and golf, although tennis is also an option (five current Big 12 members play men's tennis). He's appointed a committee within the athletic department to study the options and hopes to have a plan in place by the beginning of the coming school year and begin competing the following year.The considerations are many, although Title IX might not be a significant one. No matter what sport is added, it will increase the number of scholarships that have to be doled out to men. The NCAA scholarship limits for golf and tennis are 4.5, while adding track or cross country (one, not both) would be about the same.There is also infrastructure in place for any of the sports given that the school already sponsors women's track, cross country and tennis, although the condition of those venues and the cost of potential upgrades might be an issue. Golf would be off campus."But we'll also look at the history,'' Luck said. "We had men's track here for 85 years. We had golf here for probably 50 years. We had tennis here forever.''
Perhaps just as significantly, Luck said he wants to look at the available pool of West Virginia high school athletes. On a national scale, at least, the state is not a hotbed for developing athletes in any of those sports (or any sports at all, for that matter), but one might lend itself to recruiting more so than others. There is the element of being able to field a homegrown team as well as the cold, hard fact that a scholarship for an in-state student costs less than one for an import.Just know that the Big 12 isn't pressing the issue, in part because it has some work to do of its own."They've basically told us, 'It's up to you. You should be working on it,' " Luck said of adding a sport or sports. "But it's not something we have to address as urgent.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.