- Brett McMurphy, College football reporter
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Even without an invitation to join another conference in 2011, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich took a huge gamble by giving a 27-month notice to Big East Conference officials that the Cardinals would leave.
Jurich's gamble paid off Wednesday, saving the school $4 million, when the American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East, reached an agreement for Louisville to join the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2014.
Louisville agreed to pay $11 million to The American, instead of the $15 million the conference sought.
The university was able to negotiate a lower amount because Jurich, as required by the league's bylaws, informed then-Big East commissioner John Marinatto and South Florida president Judy Genshaft in October 2011 that the Cardinals would leave the league in 27 months, Marinatto said.
In 2011, Louisville and West Virginia were both trying to get into the Big 12, and Jurich told Marinatto that if Louisville wasn't successful, the Cardinals would pursue other options.
Marinatto and Genshaft unsuccessfully tried to get Jurich to reconsider, and Jurich reiterated on Oct. 13, 2011 -- the same day Big East officials met with potential member Central Florida -- that he was providing verbal notice that Louisville would exit the Big East.
The next day, Jurich notified Genshaft, the chairwoman of the Big East's board of directors who was in London at the time, of Louisville's plans on a conference call with Marinatto.
Unable to change Jurich's mind, Marinatto and Genshaft asked Jurich not to submit a withdrawal letter because it could be obtained through a public records search and they feared knowledge of Louisville's decision would hurt the league's stability.
Jurich agreed not to submit the letter but notified other Big East athletic directors in the following months that Louisville was leaving the league.
Two weeks after Jurich notified Marinatto and Genshaft, the Big 12 voted to add only West Virginia.
The Cardinals were invited to join the ACC on Nov. 29, 2012.
While the 27-month notice is a requirement to leave the league, several schools left the Big East earlier by negotiating a higher exit fee. West Virginia paid $21 million, instead of $5 million, to join the Big 12 two years early in 2012. Pittsburgh and Syracuse each paid $7.5 million, instead of $5 million, to join the ACC a year early in 2013.
Rutgers, which is headed to the Big Ten, is fighting to leave without paying the full exit fee. On Nov. 21, 2012, Rutgers submitted its notice of withdrawal to the Big East with plans to join the Big Ten on July 1, 2014.
Louisville's agreement with The American specifies that if Rutgers is allowed to leave the league before July 1, 2015, and pays an exit fee less than $11 million, then Louisville would get a refund for that difference.
Rutgers has filed a lawsuit against the Big East claiming it shouldn't have to pay its full exit fee that "arbitrarily applies to some, but not all, of the Big East [American] football schools, and the effect is to penalize certain members if they seek to withdraw."
Notre Dame, a Big East member in all sports except football, announced on Sept. 13, 2012, that it was leaving for the ACC. The Irish began play this season in the conference.
On Dec. 15, 2012, the Big East's "Catholic 7" basketball schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- announced they were leaving the league to form their own conference and kept the Big East name.
Neither Notre Dame nor the Catholic 7 schools provided 27 months' notice as required in the conference's bylaws.
"I'm glad to have been able to work face-to-face with [American commissioner] Mike Aresco to reach a fair settlement for us to depart the league a year early," Jurich said in a statement Wednesday. "All of us at the University of Louisville appreciate what the former Big East and American Athletic Conference have done for us, and I see greatness ahead for the league under Mike's leadership."