MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University athletic director Shane Lyons made his first public statement on the state of the Big 12 after Texas and Oklahoma informed the conference they would not retain their media rights beyond 2025. Lyons’ press release seemed to indicate the Mountaineers would consider doing what was best for the school, the athletes, the students and the state of West Virginia.
At no point did they pledge themselves to remain with the Big 12 Conference, and through much of the statement, Lyons sounded as though he was going through a sales pitch aimed at the Atlantic Coast Conference, which seems the most logical place for the Mountaineers to land should the Big 12 come apart or should they decide it is in their best interest to move on.
“For the past nine years, West Virginia University has been a loyal member of the Big 12 Conference. We have valued the partnership with the other nine members and have served the league as a prestigious academic institution and a nationally recognized athletics program. We are disappointed that two of our Big 12 institutions have indicated their intent not to extend their media rights beyond 2025,” Lyons’ statement began.
“West Virginia University’s top priority continues to be our student-athletes,” he continued, a telling statement since it did not address saving the conference or his school’s place in it.
“We are focused on ensuring that we provide opportunities to elevate their academic and athletic experiences at WVU. However, in addition to our student-athletes, we also understand the impact this announcement has on our University, our state and our Mountaineer fans around the world.
“We will continue to be highly engaged and extremely diligent in finding connections that strengthen our academic mission and allow our student-athletes to thrive in one of the most successful athletics programs in the country,” Lyons continued, about to go address what was said have kept WVU from being invited to join the ACC during the first round of realignment a decade ago — academics.
“WVU is proud to be a proven academic leader ranking at the highest level of research activity in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In fact, we are among a select few that are land-grant, doctoral research universities with a comprehensive medical school. The University’s faculty are increasingly recognized for excellence, and our legacy of student achievement includes 25 Rhodes Scholars, 25 Truman Scholars, 46 Goldwater Scholars,” he stressed.
“We also are proud that during these past nine years, our athletic programs have competed at the highest levels, winning multiple championships and crowning numerous student-athletes on the biggest stage of their respective sports. We have excelled in the classroom and built an infrastructure that is attracting elite student-athletes world-wide. We have created an atmosphere of Mountaineer hospitality, rooted in sportsmanship and fellowship. We thank each one of you for being a part of what makes Mountaineer Nation so special.”
Only in the final paragraph of his statement did he refer to working with the remaining Big 12 schools to find a way out of the situation they found themselves in when Texas and Oklahoma announced it planned to withdraw from the Big 12, reportedly to accept an invitation from the SEC.
“As was stated earlier by the Big 12 Conference, athletics is an ever-changing landscape. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Big 12 and across the country to navigate this new terrain. Together, we will continue to Climb Higher!”