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Out of alignment

Gazette staff November 2nd, 2011

For the Sept. 28 installment in the wacky world of Big 12 expansion (“Nine is enough”), Chicken-Fried News reported on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents giving OU President David L. Boren the latitude to negotiate alignment options, prompting a largely anticipated move to the Pacific-12 with Oklahoma State University that ended up, um, not actually happening.

(Kinda like Brett Favre coming out of retirement to start for the Minnesota Vikings again!) Well, West Virginia’s number was up last week in these higher-ed high jinks. First came an Oct. 25 report from The New York Times that Mountaineers were poised to depart the disintegrating Big East for the seemingly expanding Big 12 (after the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, not to mention Southeastern Conference-bound Texas A&M and Missouri). 

Although The Grey Lady reported that West Virginia had applied and been accepted — and the Neutered Nine would be fortified to 10 teams — Mountaineer officials were proofreading press releases to send out when university leaders received an order to stop the presses, according to The Associated Press. By the following day, West Virginia was in a holding pattern.

Now what? “I think all of this should have great clarity within the next 10 days or less,” Boren said Oct. 26, according to

Behold! West Virginia’s official party invitation to the Big 12 finally arrived Oct. 28, according to the website.

Down the road in Stillwater, Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis had insisted that there was no shortage of teams interested in joining the Big 12. And never at a loss for words, OSU booster T. Boone Pickens told The Kansas City Star that Morgantown, W.Va., is “pretty isolated.” Gotta love Southern hospitality.

What was the holdup? The Times reported that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had lobbied Boren and other Big 12 officials on behalf of Louisville. The Lubbock Avalanche- Journal confirmed that Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance had also received a call from the good senator a couple of weeks previously. What a coinkidink!

“I’ve known him for years, and he was just giving me the positive things about Louisville,” Hance told the publication. “He’s a Louisville alum, and he represents the state of Kentucky. I think part of his job is to speak up for his state. He was doing what he should be doing.”

Trying to clear up things, The Kansas City Star reported that the footdragging earlier in the week was because Texas preferred West Virginia and OU wanted Louisville. Is that true?

“I can’t confirm the accuracy or inaccuracy of that report,” Boren told ESPN.

com. “All I’d say is Texas and Oklahoma are working very well together right now. You can draw your conclusions from that.” Nudge, nudge.

Wink, wink. On Oct. 26, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) released a statement suggesting that a congressional investigation may be warranted.

“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 the statement. “West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.”

In conclusion, CFN understands that OU and Texas aren’t going to see eye-toeye on certain issues. We’re also surprised that OU doesn’t try to kick Texas Tech out of the conference after the Red Raiders upset the Sooners when they were favored by 29 points at home.

Adding indigenous insult to injury, ESPN anchor Todd Grisham described the aftermath of the 41-38 upset “a Trail of Tears in Oklahoma.” Too soon.

On Twitter, the broadcaster with Cherokee roots said he was mighty sorry: “Sincerely didn’t mean any harm with that comment after OU loss. I saw a shot of fans crying, historical reference didn’t even cross my mind."

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