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Taxpayers Shouldn’t Pay for Big 12 Play

November 1, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

If you thought taxpayer-funded bridges to nowhere were outrageous, you haven't heard anything yet. How about airports for college football teams?

We are not making this up. We wish we were.

When the Big 12 college athletic conference accepted West Virginia University as a new member last week, it followed a substantial amount of controversy. For one thing, it appears U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may have tried to encourage the Big 12 to accept his alma mater, the University of Louisville, instead of WVU.

But this week it was reported another pseudo-concern was brought up, by billionaire T. Boone Pickens. He happens to be a major donor to Oklahoma State University, a Big 12 member.

Reportedly, Pickens argued against the Big 12 accepting WVU because the runway at Morgantown Airport, which serves WVU, is too short for the jets some Big 12 members use to transport teams to games. Obviously, Pickens' concern didn't fly with Big 12 officials.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has a big say in how federal funds are doled out for airport improvements. "I don't buy it," Rockefeller said of Pickens' complaint. He pointed out airports near Morgantown, including Pittsburgh, have runways long enough for any Big 12 charter plane.

But Rockefeller added, "We've made it clear at every level to the Big 12 Conference that we're ready and willing to extend the runway if that's crucial." Say it isn't so, senator! Not a dime of taxpayers' money should be spent on such a boondoggle.

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