Back in October 2011, the Big 12 made a huge mistake when it selected West Virginia to become the Big 12’s 10th member instead of Louisville. Near the conclusion of Year 1, it seems that the move may have blown up in the Big 12’s face.
West Virginia finished the 2012 football season at a mediocre 7-6 including a loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Louisville went 11-2 while winning the Big East and capped off the season with a victory over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.
In men’s basketball, West Virginia finished eighth in a weak Big 12 conference with a 13-19 overall record and missed the postseason. Louisville, on the other hand, finished the year 35-5 while winning the national title. The team's addition would have certainly strengthened the Big 12 in basketball and made it no longer just Kansas’ conference.
Louisville was named The Most Profitable College Basketball Team by CNBC a few weeks back, and would have been a huge addition for the Big 12. The Cardinals' three Final Fours since 2004 ties the Big 12’s total over that time (Oklahoma State 2004, Kansas 2008, Kansas 2012).
In women’s basketball there isn’t much of a comparison. The Mountaineers went 17-14 this season, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while the Cardinals went 29-9 and lost to Connecticut in the national title game, knocking off the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears along the way.
Then you have baseball, where again Louisville is clearly supreme. The Cardinals are ranked No. 8 in the country with a record of 28-7, while the Mountaineers are 20-17.
And to think Tom Jurich, Louisville's director of athletics, nearly went so far as to beg for admittance into the conference but it was not meant to be. Instead the Big 12 chose West Virginia and its 871-mile commute to the nearest conference foe (Iowa State) as opposed to the 545 miles from Louisville to Lawrence (home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks).
So on top of it not being a smart move due to athletics, it was geographically a decision that made little sense. If the right decisions were made, the Big 12 would probably have two BCS teams, a team in the Final Four for both men’s and women’s basketball and three teams currently in the top 25 of baseball.
I know that it has only been one season, and West Virginia has time to turn it around but it seems like the Big 12 admitted the wrong team into the conference. Time will tell which would have been the better move, but after year one it is Louisville by a large margin.