Big East sues West Virginia over bylaws

Updated: November 5, 2011, 2:13 AM ET
By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

The Big East Conference filed a lawsuit of its own against West Virginia on Friday, in an attempt to force the school to comply with conference bylaws and wait 27 months before leaving for the Big 12 Conference.

The suit, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court in Providence -- where the Big East has its headquarters -- charges West Virginia with breach of contract. It seeks an order requiring West Virginia to adhere to the 27-month waiting period and other Big East bylaws, in addition to damages from the school as a result of alleged "improper attempted withdrawal in violation of those bylaws."

The Big East wants to push West Virginia's exit back to July 1, 2014.

West Virginia sued the Big East on Monday in an attempt to get out of the conference to join the Big 12 for the 2012 season. The school claimed the league breached its contract with West Virginia when teams started defecting for other conferences, therefore nullifying all conference bylaws.

"Today's legal action underscores the Big East conference's stated position that it will vigorously pursue the enforcement of its rights and West Virginia University's obligations under the conference's bylaws, which West Virginia formally agreed to and helped construct," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement Friday.

West Virginia spokesman John Bolt said the university is aware the Big East's lawsuit has been filed, "but we have not received a copy of it yet and we will have no comment."

The presidents of the Big East's remaining member schools issued a statement of their own Friday, saying they "strongly support the litigation" filed by the Big East against West Virginia University.

"We believe that it is important to protect the integrity of the interests of the Big East conference and its member institutions, and we are confident that these interests will prevail," the member presidents said.

Pitt, Syracuse, TCU and West Virginia have all left the Big East in the last two months, leaving the league with five football-playing schools. Marinatto has been adamant since Pitt and Syracuse announced they were leaving for the ACC that he would hold them to the 27-month waiting period.

He has been just as adamant about West Virginia. But the school decided to take legal action, and specifically pointed to the conference allowing TCU to join the Big 12 for 2012 without waiting 27 months. TCU was required to pay a $5 million exit penalty but because it was not a full member of the Big East yet, the school was not forced to wait.

West Virginia has already sent half of the $5 million exit fee to the Big East. The university alleged that by accepting the down payment on the exit fee, the Big East agreed to West Virginia's immediate withdrawal.

The Big East has not yet invited other schools to refill its ranks, although sources have said the conference plans to invite Boise State, Air Force and Navy for football only and Houston, SMU and UCF for all sports.

It remains unclear whether the new members would be in place in time for the 2012 season. While the Idaho State Board of Education gave Boise State permission to seek Big East membership on Thursday, the Broncos would not join the Big East until 2013.

Andrea Adelson is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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