Upon learning of McConnell's behind-the-scenes maneuvering on behalf of Louisville, West Virginia's Democratic senators began a campaign on behalf of their state's university. Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDems struggle with abortion litmus test Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE suggested that the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee investigate potentially "unethical" actions by McConnell and the conference.
“Tell him to bring it on!” Manchin told a West Virginia radio station Thursday. “But I’m going to fight. And I respect that, if Mitch wants to fight. But Mitch, if you lose the fight, go back and retrain and get better. OK? Louisville doesn’t have the record. They don’t have the standings or the merit that West Virginia has. You know what, Louisville? Go back and toughen up a little bit. Get better. And maybe you’ll be part of the Big 12 later on.”
Ultimately, the conference decided to stick with WVU, making the announcement Friday.
West Virginia's other senator, Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (D) celebrated the decision in a statement Friday — and took a jab at McConnell.
"The intervening days have been troubling, most especially the reports of an eleventh-hour political intervention to undermine the first, merits-based decision. Those reports prompted me to get involved, too — to push everyone to get back to the merits," Rockefeller said.
Manchin, himself a quarterback at WVU in the 1960s, joined in praising the decision.
“This is a great day for West Virginia and a very proud day for Mountaineers,” Manchin said. “I’m so happy that the Big 12 made its final decision on the merits: the strength of WVU’s athletics, our academics and our spirit."
A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.