By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY
The theater of the absurd that is college football expansion got even more ridiculous Wednesday. After three U.S. senators, nine Big 12 Conference schools and one billionaire booster wrestled with whether West Virginia or Louisville should join the league, the result is expected to remain the same.
The Big 12 is leaning toward adding West Virginia and staying at 10 teams. The issue is expected to be resolved by the conference's board of directors Thursday or Friday, according to an official in the Big 12 who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the situation.
West Virginia had been invited and accepted into the Big 12, according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who said the university was picked "on the strength of its program - period." Then, some Big 12 schools wanted to reconsider and take another look at Louisville.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky intervened on Louisville's behalf, according to The New York Times. In response, both of West Virginia's U.S. senators, Rockefeller and Sen. Joe Manchin, pledged "to do whatever it takes" and to "fight to get the truth." McConnell declined to comment.
Somewhere along the way, The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City reported that Oklahoma State booster T. Boone Pickens said he was concerned about adding West Virginia because Morgantown is "pretty isolated."
Not to be left out, the Big East Conference also got in on the expansion action. Commissioner John Marinatto and senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli flew to Boise to meet with Boise State officials to discuss joining the league for football only. News then broke that Boise State interim athletics director Curt Apsey talked to the Big West Conference about joining that league in other spots. This led to plenty of online guffaws about Boise State being a member of the Big East and Big West at the same time.
Big East officials are also expected to visit Air Force on the trip. Who knows what madcap adventures might follow?
The Big East presidents are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Philadelphia with Marinatto. It's possible they could give Marinatto the go-ahead to invite new members next week.
Presumably, the senators from Idaho and Colorado are not expected to intervene.
Meanwhile, Rockefeller released a statement expressing anger that West Virginia's move is being challenged. "That's just flat wrong. I am doing and will do whatever it takes to get us back to the merits," he said.
Manchin said an investigation might be in order. Manchin's involvement in college sports is not unprecedented. As the state's governor, he helped arrange for Marshall and West Virginia to play a seven-game series that ends in 2012. The schools had played only once between 1923 and 2006.
"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. West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports," he said in a statement.
Between truth, justice and conference realignment, it was a busy day.