West Virginia University filed a lawsuit Monday seeking an immediate divorce from the Big East so it can become a member of the Big 12 before the 2012 football season. Syracuse and Pittsburgh withdrew from the Big East in September to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Big 12 announced West Virginia’s acceptance on Friday but Big East bylaws require notice 27 months before a school can withdraw. The complaint alleges that the Big East agreed to West Virginia’s immediate withdrawal by accepting a $2.5 million down payment on its $5 million exit fee. TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big East in September but switched to the Big 12 in October and was not required to honor the 27-month notice requirement. Big East spokesman Chuck Sullivan said “TCU never started with the Big East because they had not formally joined the conference, which would have been July 1, 2012, they were subject only to the financial component.”
The Big East said:
“We are disappointed that West Virginia has adopted this strategy and cannot imagine why it believes it does not have to respect and honor the bylaws it agreed to as a member of the Big East. Based on an initial review of the lawsuit, it is clear that the allegations and claims in it are false and inaccurate. Certainly there is nothing in it that would justify WVU’s not fulfilling its obligations. To put it simply, a contract is a contract,”
West Virginia’s lawsuit says other Big East football members Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati have been engaged in discussions with other sports conferences. Pitt and Syracuse left the Big East which left only 6 football members and 8 non-football members. That is an imbalance not contemplated by the bylaws. So when the Big 12 extended its invitation Friday the Mountaineers accepted.
“As the Big East, in less than two months, had denigrated into a non-major football conference whose continued existence is in serious jeopardy, WVU had no choice but to accept the Big XII’s offer,” the lawsuit says.