When West Virginia sued the Big East last fall over the right to join the Big 12 in 2012, it was believed one of the consequences would be similar lawsuits by Big East members Pitt and Syracuse, which agreed to join the ACC in 2014.
It appears that consequence is beginning to come to fruition.
First reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pitt filed a lawsuit Friday to allow the Panthers to join their new home on July 1, 2013 without penalty or interference.
The report from the Post-Gazette states Pitt believes departures by TCU and WVU to the Big 12 have “cost the University of Pittsburgh lost ticket sales, buyout fees and game fees for two valuable home football games those opponents scheduled, then abandoned, leaving Pitt scrambling to find replacements at additional cost.”
Additionally, Pitt is asking for (yes, they’re asking for stuff) “revenue received by the conference during the 2011-2012 conference year, including money received from TCU and WVU; and reimbursement for damages such as the fees Pitt paid to secure the lost home games with TCU and WVU and to secure replacement games with lesser rivals, the lost ticket sales from disappointed fans, court costs and other financial losses.”
Below is a statement release by the university:
“Since the University of Pittsburgh made the decision to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, we have done everything possible to move through a smooth transition with the Big East. Though we have been excluded from governance activities, meetings, decision-making and operational functions of the conference, we have been positive and respectful of the Big East.
“On September 26, 2011, when we notified the Big East that we were withdrawing from the conference, we paid the first half of the exit fee of $5 million. When the 2012-13 season is complete, we will have competed in the Big East for two seasons, thus providing ample time to re-form the Big East Conference for the future. Beginning with the 2013-14 season, the Big East will actually have four more football playing schools and more schools overall than when we gave notice that we were moving to a different conference.
“Although the Big East’s stated position is that we must stay through the 2013-14 season, the Big East acknowledged publicly that a discussion of our departure after the 2012-13 season was appropriate. A few weeks ago, Steve Pederson met with John Marinatto to begin the process to work toward an exit after this upcoming academic year. The Commissioner indicated that he was doing this with the authorization of the Chair of the Big East Presidents. However, attempts to contact the Big East in the following weeks to move the process forward have been unsuccessful, leading us to conclude that negotiations would not occur. Given the change in leadership of the Big East and the lack of response to our attempted contacts, on Friday, May 11, 2012, we filed a law suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, seeking resolution of this matter. We are confident in our position as stated in the complaint, but believe that this matter is best resolved between the parties. We have notified the Big East of this action, and continue to hope that our departure can be accommodated through private negotiations.”
A few thoughts on the move:
- Regardless of the news this morning that Boise State was potentially having second thoughts about joining the Big East, the lawsuit itself can’t be totally unexpected. As mentioned above, once WVU filed a suit against the conference and essentially won by settling out of court, the door was open for Pitt and Syracuse to do the same.
- Because scheduling inventory isn’t a real critical part of Pitt’s lawsuit, I doubt it will carry the same weight as the one WVU filed. Remember, WVU left the Big East with just seven football members for a brief time. Think of this lawsuit as more of a guarantee that Pitt will leave in 2013 because the program is now dealing with a new, interim commissioner with the resignation of John Marinatto (by all accounts, Marinatto was fine with letting Pitt/’Cuse leave in 2013).
- However, the emboldened part of Pitt’s statement is important because it assumes the Big East will have four new members beginning in 2013. It’s believed that if Boise State gets cold feet, San Diego State could do the same. The Broncos are expected to be the cornerstone of the conference once all the dust settles in the next couple of years. If they decide to stay in the Mountain West, however, that could spell monetary trouble for a media rights agreement the conference is trying to land.
- If Boise/SDSU do back out, the Big East could try to hold Pitt to their contract though 2013-14 (although that seems unenforceable).