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.

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.