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.