- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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We knew it was going to come down to this: The WAC has sued Fresno State and Nevada in order to keep the two schools in the conference through the 2011-12 season. The Mountain West is also included in the suit, in order to stop the league from scheduling those schools into conference play for next season.
Commissioner Karl Benson felt he had no other choice in the matter. When he was informed by both school presidents that they wanted to leave the WAC to join the Mountain West in August, both had missed the July 1 cutoff date specifically spelled out in league bylaws. They reiterated their intentions to leave after this season. Benson responded with a letter in writing Aug. 26 saying the league's bylaws stipulated they must remain members through June 30, 2012 and the WAC wouldn't agree to change that.
When he got no response, the WAC decided it had to take legal action as a protective measure for its six remaining teams. The suit was filed last Thursday.
"We’ve declared pretty consistently that the football schedule for 2011 would be drastically challenging for the six remaining members if they lost two footballs games in the 2011 season less than a year away," Benson said Tuesday. "We also have obligations and contracts with our bowl partners that would be damaged without Fresno State and Nevada in the WAC in 2011. A contract with our television partner that would be affected. WAC basketball tournament implications, BCS implications, there’s a myriad of reasons why Fresno State and Nevada need to fulfill their obligations.
"There’s a reason there’s notification dates to allow a conference adequate time and reasonable time to prepare for the departure. This isn’t the first time we’ll have two lame duck seasons. When TCU left the WAC they participated in two full seasons, SMU, Rice, Tulsa participated in almost two full seasons so it’s not something that we haven’t faced before and other conferences haven’t faced before."
The WAC also wants the $5 million exit fee each school agreed to pay, but that is a separate issue not included in the lawsuit. Benson said there has been no real progress in adding additional teams for the 2012-13 season, but said it would have a minimum of eight football playing schools when that season opens.
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