WVU sues Big East for right to move in ’12

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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.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.