The departure of the Mountaineers, now the premier program in the Big East football conference, would leave the league with just five football-playing members and seriously damage attempts to expand in order to maintain its BCS status as an automatic qualifier.
USA Today reported the story, "according to an official in the Big East who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the move."
West Virginia would replace Missouri when it eventually makes the move to the Southeastern Conference. Missouri hasn't formally withdrawn from the Big 12 and the Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that the conference was urging Missouri to remain in the conference while negotiating details that include an exit fee. Despite that, Missouri is expected to leave the Big 12 within the next week.
The Big East has already lost Syracuse and Pittsburg to the Atlantic Coast Conference. TCU, which had agreed to join the Big East in 2012, reversed its field and will instead join the Big 12, which has already lost Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M.
West Virginia will pay just a $5 million exit fee despite the conference vote last week to double that fee to $10 million. That increase was contingent upon the success of expansion. Commissioner John Marinatto said last week the increase would not kick in until at least one team had agreed to join the Big East. There have been reports that Houston might be prepared to make that decision later this week, but that could be in jeopardy now.
Marinatto has said that all Big East programs moving to another conference will be held to the 27-month notification requirement. Conference presidents have authorized Marinatto to expand to a 12-team football conference. But West Virginia's departure would leave Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers and Louisville as the only football playing schools.
The Big East expansion model includes Navy, Air Force and Boise State as football only members and Central Florida, SMU and Houston as all-sports members. But many of those targeted schools have expressed concern about the stability of the Big East. West Virginia's departure would only increase those fears.