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WVU sues Big East for right to move in ’12

Lady Justice

In announcing their impending move from the Big East to the Big 12, both West Virginia and their new conference were very clear that the Mountaineers would become a member in 2012.  The Big East was just as emphatic in their own release, saying in a statement that the league “is committed to enforcing the 27-month notification period for members who choose to leave the conference.”

Apparently, it will now be up to a court of law to decide when WVU becomes a member of the Big 12.

Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com is reporting that WVU is filing suit against the Big East in an effort to get out from under the 27-month waiting period.  Per the documents obtained by McMurphy, commissioner John Marinatto sent a memo to the presidents and chancellors of conference members informing them that WVU “is filing suit against the Big East Conference today [Monday].”

The emailed memo stated that the lawsuit filing is “presumably to get relief from the withdrawal provision contained in our bylaws.”

CFT subsequently obtained the lawsuit itself — it can be read in its entirety HERE —  which was filed in the Circuit Court of Monongalia County (WV) and claims “the denigration of the Big East football conference is a direct and proximate result of lack of leadership and breach of fiduciary duties to the football schools by the Big East and its commissioner.”  The suit further states that the Big East breached its contract because “the Big East will lose its position as an [automatic qualifying BcS] conference.”  Of course, part of the reason why the Big East would lose their AQ status is because of WVU’s departure.

It should also be noted that WVU was one of the member schools that voted to have the 27-month waiting period put into effect to help prevent members from leaving the conference.

The suit goes on to point out, on a couple of occasions, that the Big East did not require TCU to comply with the 27-month waiting period when they announced they were “leaving” for the Big 12.  TCU was scheduled to become a member of the Big East July 1 of next year.  Additionally, the suit notes officials from UConn very publicly and aggressively campaigning for an invitation to the ACC, as well as “representatives of Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati [being] engaged in discussions with other sports conferences, including the ACC, the Big XII, the SEC and the Big Ten for the purpose of trying to obtain invitations to join these conferences and withdraw from the Big East.”

(Writer’s note: thanks for confirming that the Big Ten is engaged in expansion discussions.)

PFT’s Mike Florio, who was a practicing attorney in a previous life, told CFT via email that the Big East allowing TCU to “leave early” is the most compelling part of WVU’s argument.

“West Virginia has essentially loaded the shotgun and fired it repeatedly, raising a variety of creative and, for the most part, persuasive arguments,” Florio wrote in the email. “The Big East’s decision to allow TCU to exit the conference by paying the $5 million withdrawal fee without providing the required 27 months’ notice is perhaps the most compelling fact that favors West Virginia’s attempt to leave before the 27 months expires.

“As a practical matter, West Virginia likely hopes to create leverage via the lawsuit that will be used to negotiate a divorce that would allow West Virginia to join the Big 12 for the 2012-13 school year.”

In summation, WVU is asking the court to “enter an Order permanently enjoining the Commissioner and the Big East from enforcing the 27-month notice provision of the Agreement against WVU” and demands a trial by jury on their home court, so to speak.

The Big East has yet to respond to the suit that was filed Monday morning.

WVU has already paid $2.5 million of the $5 million exit fee required by Big East bylaws.  The other half of the financial penalty will be paid upon the school’s official exit.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which announced earlier this year that they will leave for the ACC, are not a part of WVU’s suit.  The Big East has been very emphatic that they will hold those two schools to the 27-month waiting period.

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23 Responses to “WVU sues Big East for right to move in ’12”
  1. dungydouche says: Oct 31, 2011 4:24 PM

    I’d love to see the butchering of the English language in that document. “Y’all need too dunn let us leaf raht naow” Signed, WF’inVU

  2. teke184 says: Oct 31, 2011 4:43 PM

    If this doesn’t work, I figure the next tactic may be another raid by the Big 12 to take some additional schools, such as Louisville and South Florida, in hopes of officially killing off the Big East as a football conference.

    And if the non-football BE schools, lead by Notre Dame, insist on holding them to it, I suggest that the five remaining BCS conferences “suggest” to ND that they relent considering that negotiations for the next BCS cycle are about to come up.

  3. jtturner says: Oct 31, 2011 4:51 PM

    The BE as an AQ conf is done it is the B12,ACC,SEC,PAC12,B1G and BE who vote on who is AQ and who is not I only see the BE getting one vote out of that group. As a side note it is just a coincedence that the BCS commitee meets next month in San Francisco. right?

  4. fcmlefty1 says: Oct 31, 2011 4:55 PM

    I think this is a relevent comment for me to copy/paste everytime a “Big East is dead!” post gets made on CFT…

    As I’ve stated elsewhere on CFT, adding the service academies will ensure that the Big East retains thier AQ status. You thought the political games spun out of control with the WV/Louisville drama? Wait until you include the service academies in that mix. Couple that with all the dirt that Big East honchos have accumulated the last 15 years – there is no way the other big boys are going to risk having a “jilted lover” situation happen. Big East is safe, whether we like it or not as fans.

  5. 78lion says: Oct 31, 2011 4:55 PM

    I certainly wouldn’t consider comments announcing a law suit as confirmation that the B1G is engaged in expansion discussions with Louisville, Cincinnati or Rutgers. At best these schools AD/Prez are talking to an answering machine.

  6. wvuandsteelers says: Oct 31, 2011 5:18 PM

    I agree with Florio. I think the TCU thing is their smoking gun. The rest is a lot of smoke an mirrors. The BE’s only saving grace is if they have something in their by-laws about a school about to become a member vs a school that is already a member. However, I doubt that.

    Plus, you might see Pitt and Syracuse join this so they can get out earlier as well.

  7. vegasrobert says: Oct 31, 2011 5:27 PM

    true.. except pitt and syracuse not in NEED to leave early.. they’re headed to a conf that can wait… Big 12 NEEDS a new team next year… cannot wait .. shorter mbr list so Mizzu going to sec next yr hurts game scheduling badly

  8. pastabelly says: Oct 31, 2011 5:27 PM

    Can it be considered a REAL conference when EVERY member wants to leave? If WVU wins it’s lawsuit, you can bet that Pitt and Cuse won’t be waiting any 27 months.

  9. vegasrobert says: Oct 31, 2011 5:52 PM

    in addition to fact TCU not held to 27 mo notification period, here’s another shot that will hold in any courtroom:

    the sudden departure of FB schools in 2 month period left 8 non-football and only SIX football teams in the conf… nonFB schools now have more governance over FB schools and this “denigration” and breach of contract is NOT covered in Big East bylaws. VERY good observation here by their legal team…Non FB schools get votes on all fb matters. this unexpected change in governance without written bylaws (more Non FB than FB schools) leaves the FB school with an out to seek grievance or relief from said governance.

    also just for kicks.. their legal team did not proof their own filing.. section 32 error lists UConn as departing mbr instead of SU… Uconn prez only wishes!

  10. Deb says: Oct 31, 2011 5:52 PM

    dungydouche says:

    I’d love to see the butchering of the English language in that document. “Y’all need too dunn let us leaf raht naow” Signed, WF’inVU
    ———————————————–
    So you hate Tony Dungy, for what? Being a decent person? You ridicule West Virginians based on idiotic regional stereotypes. Must be nice not having to buy a costume for Halloween. You can just go as you are. Heehaw.

  11. vegasrobert says: Oct 31, 2011 5:56 PM

    in fact i would say the HEART of this lawsuit should and will center around the fact the commissioner did not meet his duties to the FB schools, and indeed the lawsuit clearly takes this position stating the conf furthered the non FB schools and did nothing to fix the problem

    i think tcu point is strong and valid, but in 1 quick rebuttal it won’t hold up in law… tcu never made it to the roster! a judge will see unique circumstance for the proper arrangement afforded to tcu.. that will NOT be held against them in the end… but it helps! the real bread and butter here will be the increased governance of basketball conf over 6 FB schools, and the commissioners failure to fix it, and the lack of bylaws for this governance that NO fb schools would ever agree to!

  12. Deb says: Oct 31, 2011 5:56 PM

    That 27-month waiting period seems extremely long. What are the waiting periods for the Pac 12, Big 12, Big 10, and SEC?

  13. vegasrobert says: Oct 31, 2011 5:57 PM

    breach of fiduciary duties by conf and commish.. that’s the key here. and i say the lack of bylaws for governance but their legal team only hits it as pile on here.

    sorry i’m bored.. i read the damned thing. FML

  14. vegasrobert says: Oct 31, 2011 6:01 PM

    and taking from their past experience with sneaky exits and legalese … this lil nugget…

    *WVU submitted offer to big east to withdraw immed for certain monies
    *Big East accepted payment, thus accepting our offer.

    .. of course they WIRED the $2.5 mill… sorry wvu.. no court will buy this and you’re just angering a judge when you toss in crap like this.. i expect this will NOT ever be brought up in court..just crap to add to brief .. more for Big East negotiation leverage than intent to pursue in court.

  15. thefiesty1 says: Oct 31, 2011 6:24 PM

    The quick out should go thru because the BB teams in the BE are forcing their wishes on the football members.

    It’s presumptuous of the BE to require TCU for a 27 month waiting period when they were not yet members.

    The other conferences won’t vote for the BE to continue being an AQ. Adding the likes of Navy, Air Force, Houston, SMU and any other Podunk school won’t help the BE in the least.

    They won’t be in existence in 27 months to be around to enforce that clause in their by laws anyway.

  16. highoctane1 says: Oct 31, 2011 6:55 PM

    Not sure how much merit this suit will have, but WVU’s goal here is to get a settlement with the BE on an earlier exit for extra $$$, and that purpose will likely be served.

    Oh, and WVU, thanks for taking the lead on this, so we don’t have to spend the money on the lawyers. Signed – Pitt and Syracuse

  17. teke184 says: Oct 31, 2011 7:13 PM

    “That 27-month waiting period seems extremely long. What are the waiting periods for the Pac 12, Big 12, Big 10, and SEC?”

    The waiting periods for the other conferences are tied to how much of a financial hit the departing institution is willing to take for early departure.

    Officially, Nebraska and Colorado were supposed to give up somewhere around $20 million each to the Big 12 for leaving with only one season’s notice, but Nebraska settled for about $9 million and Colorado for about $6 million.

    If they’d waited another season or two, there wouldn’t have been as big, or any, financial hit for doing so.

  18. Deb says: Oct 31, 2011 7:41 PM

    @teke184 …

    Thank you. WVU is paying $5 million, which isn’t small potatoes. TCU was allowed to pay that amount and leave immediately. It really doesn’t seem the Big East has a leg to stand on.

  19. vgiord1227 says: Oct 31, 2011 9:40 PM

    The problem with the TCU argument is that TCU was not even a member and would not have been until July 1, 2012. So I don’t know if that has as much power as some might think. Now if TCU was a full voting member and decided to bolt that is a different story.

    Honestly I saw this coming. The Big 12 needs to stay at 10 in order to keep its current contract with Fox. If it dips below 10 Fox can take money away. I always asked how they would get a BE school past the 27 month deal? This is being driven not only by WVU but the Big 12.

  20. Deb says: Oct 31, 2011 9:58 PM

    @vgiord1227 …

    Yes, I thought about the argument that TCU wasn’t yet a participating member. But they were members, and the court will be reluctant to let the Big East start splitting hairs about how this school can exit with just a buyout, but that one has to pay a buyout and wait 27 months. The leeway the Big East gave TCU makes them vulnerable to this suit, as Florio said.

    If anything, the potential harm the Big East’s intransigence may do the Big 12 should work in WVU’s favor. They can show that by treating them differently than they treated TCU, the Big East can cause severe financial hardship to the other nine schools in the Big 12. That makes the Big East’s actions look doubly vindictive.

  21. readyfred says: Oct 31, 2011 10:31 PM

    The SEC has no time limit on when teams leave. Also, there’s no fee to pay to get out. Of course, no one wants out. But many want in. I guess “it’s good to be the King!”

  22. frug says: Oct 31, 2011 10:40 PM

    Yeah most conferences don’t have any waiting period so long as they give sufficient notice if they wish to leave in less than a year (so the remaining schools can adjust their schedules).

    The whole idea of the 27 month waiting period was to make Big East schools less valuable to poachers by requiring them to wait 3 seasons.

  23. bsputnik says: Nov 1, 2011 3:32 AM

    Pretty sad that this has a typo in it. Paragraph 32: “The departure of members Pittsburgh, UConn and TCU created an imbalance and disparity between the football and non-football playing schools…” Pitt, UConn and TCU, huh?

    I can understand what they are trying to do here and I hope it works so Syracuse can get the hell out of Dodge, but I only see this ending in a settlement. 15 million on top of the 5 to leave immediately sounds fair to me.

    I don’t like the disparity in football to basketball schools argument though. Sure, it is a 6-8 right now, but if none of this would’ve happened, TCU comes in and it is 9-8. There is no answer for that either. I know the law doesn’t deal in “what-ifs,” but do the by-laws really need to speak about what to do in this situation? It was going to happen one way or another.

    Nice try WVU, but either stay like Pitt and Syracuse agreed to, or prepare to pay out the A to get out. I don’t believe this argument holds up very well. AND PROOF READ YOUR LEGAL FILINGS….multiple times.

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