[Editor's note: This story originally appeared as a guest column on our buddy Caleb's site, WVUPros.com]
So, it seems that WVU’s exit from the Big East will cost $11 million (some of the $9 million chipped in by the Big 12 is actually a loan that will be paid back from WVU’s share of the television revenue). That’s an awful lot of money and a sum that some fans may not be comfortable with. One good thing is that AD Oliver Luck has gone on the record to put at ease fears of WV state money being used for the buy-out; not a dime from the state will be used. Here’s more bad news that you’ve undoubtedly already realized. WVU’s new conference members aren’t exactly right around the corner, distance-wise. The closest Big 12 member school to Morgantown is Iowa State at 874 miles. Traveling to these locations won’t be cheap and we’re not only talking about travel expenses for the football and basketball teams. Baseball, gymnastics, women’s soccer, track, etc, will all eat up more dough. Not to mention that the WVU men’s soccer team will need a new conference to compete in (Big 12 doesn’t sponsor men’s soccer).
There will be facilities upgrades needed for WVU to be on par with it’s new Big 12 brethren. Some facilities that were top notch in the Big East, are now near the bottom of the Big 12. For a prime example, look no further than WVU’s baseball facility, Hawley Field. If you weren’t aware before, baseball in the Big 12 is kind of a big deal. Check out the Longhorn baseball field. I’ve been to several minor league fields that aren’t that nice. That’s just one example. There are upgrades needed to several other areas as well, including, whether we want to admit it or not, Milan Puskar Stadium. These upgrades will obviously cost major money.
But, By-Godders, I have some good news for you.
In the long run, the move to the Big 12 will likely wind up actually saving WVU money on travel. Had WVU remained in the Big Least, teams (and fans) would have had to travel even farther to places like Colorado Springs, San Diego (admittedly a wonderful destination, but that’s not the point) and Boise. Add that to the new television contract that WVU will ease it’s way into and WVU will be in better financial shape than ever. Even starting out with only a 50% the first year, WVU will be earning more money than before with the Big East. The second year will afford WVU a 67% share, 84% in the third and finally a full share from 2015 on. The current contract is currently worth roughly $18-19 million per team. Do the math. Assuming the lower end of that number range, that figures to $9 million in 2012, $12 mil in 2013, and $15 mil in 2014 in the WVU athletic department coffers (minus the loan payback increments). Here’s more good news, it’s widely believed that $18-19 million dollar mark per school, per year, will be actually even be larger by the time WVU begins to take in its full share. How much larger? That’s up to the market.
Regardless of how much money WVU is and will be shelling out and bringing in, this move also needs to be seen as a long term investment for not only the athletic future of the WVU, but exposure of the University on a nationwide scale. If you listen to and trust AD Oliver Luck (as I do), WVU competing in the Big 12 will expose WVU as a whole to a whole new area of the country, namely Texas, a state that exports more college students than any other. More students equals more tuition, a broader alumni base and a broader alumni base generally donates more money.
Yes, this divorce between WVU and the Big East has been drawn out, ugly and expensive. But it’s like Luck said, "Well, it’s the old adage: Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it."