Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: November 1, 10:10 AM ET
W. Virginia files lawsuit against Big East
By Andrea Adelson
West Virginia filed a civil lawsuit against the Big East on Monday in an attempt to exit the conference in 2012 to join the Big 12, squarely blaming commissioner John Marinatto for the instability of the conference.
In the 14-page suit filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court in West Virginia, the university claims it should not be held to the 27-month waiting period required of all departing teams. West Virginia alleges, "The Big East Conference and its commissioner, through their actions, breached their contract to WVU and nullified and voided the bylaws."
How did the Big East breach its contract? West Virginia alleges that nothing was done to protect the remaining six football playing schools once Pitt, Syracuse and TCU left. That created such instability, that the lawsuit alleges Cincinnati, Rutgers and UConn engaged in discussions with the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten.
West Virginia alleges Marinatto failed to take proactive measures to "maintain, let alone enhance the quality of competition in the league" and the school had no choice but to accept an invitation to the Big 12.
"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," Marinatto said in a statement Monday. "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 also believes the Big East will lose its position as an automatic BCS-qualifying conference.
West Virginia also alleges, "The denigration of the Big East Conference is a direct and proximate result of ineffective leadership and breach of fiduciary duties to the football schools by the Big East Conference and its commissioner."
The school is asking for a court injunction to declare the current 27-month waiting period void or count the $2.5 million payment the conference already received from the school as a way to waive the waiting period. West Virginia also is seeking damages for the breach of contract.
Marinatto has said West Virginia is not eligible to join the Big 12 until July 1, 2014.
"Once we have reviewed the filing, we will explore all our legal options and will act vigorously to ensure that WVU lives up to all its obligations to our conference," Marinatto said. "In the meantime, this lawsuit will not interfere in any way with our ongoing efforts to strengthen and expand the Big East."
WVU spokesman John Bolt declined to elaborate, saying "the lawsuit speaks for itself."
The league has been adamant about holding Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia to the waiting period.
When the Big 12 announced it had accepted West Virginia as a member last week, both the conference and school said the Mountaineers would be full members in 2012.
The lawsuit is the latest development in a flurry of conference realignment activity this fall. Syracuse and Pittsburgh withdrew from the Big East in September to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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.
"That's basically because they never started with the Big East," Big East spokesman Chuck Sullivan said of the Horned Frogs. "Because they had not formally joined the conference, which would have been July 1, 2012, they were subject only to the financial component."
Andrea Adelson is the Big East blogger for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.