The appearance that Louisville and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell made a late push into the Big 12 expansion process this week is not accurate. A source told CBSSports.com that three senators identified Wednesday in national reports have been involved in the process for what was termed "weeks."
McConnell and West Virginia senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin had all been in contact with at least Oklahoma president David Boren before Wednesday’s messy expansion revelations, the source said. Manchin threatened a Senate investigation if it was proven McConnell was lobbying in Louisville’s favor against West Virginia.
CBSSports.com reported exclusively Wednesday that the Big 12 had a press release ready and at at least two high-ranking conference officials were scheduled to fly to Morgantown, W.V., for the announcement that West Virginia was being accepted into the league. That process hit a snag when Louisville’s prospects improved.
But it wasn’t a last-minute thing. Manchin and Rockefeller have been working for West Virginia while McConnell, a Louisville graduate, supports his university’s fortunes. The Big 12 is seen as brass ring for each to keep continued BCS status.
It is a logical assumption that all three politicos were seeking Boren’s influence in the matter. (A spokeswoman for Manchin's office said Thursday night: "Senator Manchin does not know, has not spoken to or been in contact with President Boren.") Before becoming OU’s president, Boren was Oklahoma governor and a former Oklahoma state senator from 1979-94. The New York Times reported that McConnell had also contacted Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance, himself a former congressman, to push Louisville.
But Boren -- a political animal of the highest order -- now is central to the expansion discussion. According to a source and at least one report, Oklahoma wants the 10-year grant of rights and Louisville for the Big 12. Texas wants a six-year grant of rights and West Virginia.
The grant of rights is an all-in media rights agreement that the conference would own even if a school left for another league. In other words, if Texas and/or Oklahoma left the Pac-12, the Big 12 would still own its TV rights. The agreement basically bonds a conference together for as long as the grant of rights is in effect.
But the word “bonds” is seldom used in the Big 12. If Missouri eventually leaves for the SEC a huge reason will be the typical conference infighting described above. If adopted, the 10-year grant of rights may give Missouri pause. So may the inclusion of Notre Dame into the Big 12 win everything but football.
Texas apparently is sticking to its six-year preference. Three schools -- Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado -- have left the Big 12 since June 2010.
Adding to the incongruity, Missouri is supposedly leaving the conference because of instability. West Virginia/Louisville want in because of stability. Go figure.