West Virginia is suing the Big East conference for its release in order to join the Big 12 conference on July 1, 2012.
Currently, the Big East has a bylaw that states conference members must give the conference 27 months notice before leaving the conference. If that bylaw were to hold up, the Mountaineers would not be able to join the Big 12 until the 2014 season.
Fellow Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse are in the same boat, only with the ACC. Neither school is joining West Virginia in the lawsuit, but they’ll be watching it very closely so that they too can switch leagues for next year instead of three years down the road.
The biggest claim that West Virginia is making is that the conference as a whole, but particularly conference commissioner John Marinatto, failed to fulfill their “fiduciary duties” to the conference and West Virginia in particular.
A big reason that West Virginia could win this is that the conference let TCU walk away while not adhering to the 27 month notification rule. However, TCU was not an official member of the Big East conference at the time and while the lawsuit talks about a lack of proportion between football schools and non-football schools, that is also incorrect.
There is no disproportion at this time because no school has officially left or officially joined the Big East conference. Technically, it’s as if Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia have booked vacations but haven’t left for them yet.
However, they do have an argument that the Big East has been falling down in trying to keep up with their fellow BCS conferences. The Big East has been the laughingstock of the BCS for awhile now, but nothing was worse than the conference sending Connecticut and a small band of fans to the Fiesta Bowl as sacrificial lambs for Oklahoma last season.
There’s some pretty harsh language in the lawsuit from the Mountaineers against the Big East. You can read it here.
It will be interesting if West Virginia wins the lawsuit. They’ve already payed half of the $5 million exit fee required by the conference.
If the Mountaineers do win, expect Syracuse and Pittsburgh to be hot on their heels out the door to greener pastures in conferences that don’t neglect their “fiduciary duties.”