Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lobbied leaders of Big 12 universities to include the University of Louisville in the Big 12 athletic conference's future, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The effort appears to have stalled the anticipated move of West Virginia University from the Big East to the Big 12. The report sparked outrage from West Virginia's U.S. Senators.
Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV) issued a statement:
“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.”
Yet, Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance, a former congressman, defended McConnell, a University of Louisville graduate and founder of the McConnell Center, a renowned leadership program on the U of L campus.
“Mitch McConnell talked about the merits of Louisville and nothing else,” Hance said. “Why shouldn’t he be sticking up for Kentucky? I think the guys from West Virginia got caught flat-footed not sticking up for West Virginia.”