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Rutgers’ Parting Gift to the Big East Conference: A Lawsuit

The Star-Ledger Via USA Today Sports Images

Rutgers is suing the Big East Conference to avoid paying a $10 million exit fee.   Apparently when leaving the Big East, the parting gift is a lawsuit.

Throw years of shared experience and alliances out the window.  Like most legally-binding relationships that end when one party wants out, litigation seems to come with separation.  Rutgers joins Pittsburgh and West Virginia as schools that have sued the Big East to avoid paying the exit fee.

According to Big East bylaws, a school must give 27 months’ notice and pay a $10 million withdrawal fee before leaving the conference.

In the suit Rutgers filed against the league, the university accuses the Big East of applying the rule selectively.  Rutgers points out that the Big East allowed Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and TCU to leave the league before the 27 months were up.

Last month Big East members voted to increase the exit fee from $5 million to $10 million.  Rutgers opposed the increase and did not vote on the motion.

Perhaps to strengthen its position in negotiations, Rutgers is asking the Big East to pay $1.3 million it said it lost when a football game was canceled after TCU withdrew its membership to join the Big 12 Conference.

The whole thing is sad.  All this shameful conference hopping comes as the college basketball season heats up and the football season winds down.  These are the revenue earning sports that fund athletic departments.  It’s the pursuit of revenue, not relationships and rivalries, that is fueling conference realignment.

Ironically the only school leaving the Big East that has not threatened a lawsuit is Notre Dame, a university that certainly has the money and muscle.  The Fighting Irish received high marks for how they are handling their exit, but the same isn’t holding true for schools like Rutgers.

Merlisa blogs about Georgetown and Big East basketball.  Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa