West Virginia Sues Big East Seeking its Freedom

West Virginia University has filed a lawsuit against The Big East Conference seeking to invalidate the conference’s exit requirements so it may be free to join the Big 12 Conference next season.

The Big East requires a $5 million buyout and a 27-month waiting period to leave the conference.  West Virginia has been unable to work out a settlement to avoid the mandatory waiting period, and therefore brings the issue before the court.  West Virginia’s lawsuit is a preemptive strike against The Big East, which was contemplating a lawsuit of its own.  Once again, the Big East is on the defensive.

West Virginia, in its complaint, alleges that the Big East breached its fiduciary duty by ignoring the interests of the football-playing members.  Trouble allegedly arose after Syracuse and Pittsburgh’s departure, resulting in the Big East’s non-football schools outnumbering the football schools for voting purposes.  In other words, the non-football schools controlled the fate of the football schools and Commissioner John Marinatto allegedly failed to address the issue:

“This lack of leadership, breach of fiduciary duties by the Big East and its Commissioner, and voting disparity between the football and non-football schools resulted in the Big East football conference no longer being a viable and competitive football conference,” the complaint says.

Moreover, West Virginia claims that, due to the Big East’s actions, it was left no choice but to find a new home:

“As the Big East, in less than two months, had denigrated into a non-major football conference whose continued existence is in serious jeopardy, WVU had no choice but to accept the Big XII’s offer,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint also cites to the overtures that other Big East schools have made to join other conferences, including UConn, citing statements made by UConn President Susan Herbst and Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy.

Although the Big East has appeared content to take its time determining its next move in the wake of Syracuse and Pittsburgh’s departure, this lawsuit may force the Big East’s hand.  West Virginia has no intent in spending the next 27 months in the conference.  Although the Big East may not want to set a precedent by allowing West Virginia to force its way out of the conference, a prolonged litigation and public discovery process over the alleged mishandling of the conference can only weaken a conference that already appears to be on borrowed time.

Click here to read the complaint at ESPN.com.  The Big East has yet to respond to these allegations, and can be expected to initially provide a strong response.  Nevertheless, this case is not a positive development for the Big East or its football schools.  Stay tuned for more analysis on this case.


  1. […] West Virginia Sues Big East Seeking its Freedom […]

  2. […] West Virginia Sues Big East Seeking its Freedom (ctsportslaw.com) […]

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