Contractual Issues

West Virginia Headed to Big 12

The following article was written by Cyle Kiger.

The realignment chaos that has gone on for months has seen another move happen.  West Virginia will be joining the Big 12 conference and leaving the Big East in time for this year’s college football season.

Last October, West Virginia announced its plans to move to the Big East conference.  The move would make the Big East a 5-team conference by 2013.  Fellow conference universities, Syracuse and Pittsburgh committed to the ACC.  West Virginia would need to pay a $5 million dollar exit fee if they wanted to move away from the Big East.  On top of that, there is a conference bylaw that states a team needs to give the Big East a 27-month exit notice.

The biggest question leading up to the settlement between the two was whether West Virginia would be in the Big East this upcoming fall.  The major obstacles to the answer were the two lawsuits that stood in the way.

West Virginia’s lawsuit against the Big East was recently put on hold by Judge Russell Clawges until the Big East’s lawsuit is decided in Rhode Island courts.  The suit claims “unreasonable restraint on trade” and “failure to comply with fiduciary obligations,” against the Big East.  Essentially, West Virginia is accusing the Big East of no longer being a competitive football and non-football conference.  They also argue TCU as precedent, because they did not have to comply with any 27-month period to join the Big 12.

Big East’s Rhode Island case was an attempt to enforce the conference’s 27-month notification bylaw.   The charge is for breach of contract.  In addition, the Big East alleged West Virginia caused damages by attempting to leave in violation of the conference’s bylaws.

Recently, the Mountaineers and the Big East settled for $20 million.  West Virginia has agreed to pay $11 million to the Big East for allowing them to leave  without giving the 27-month notice.  The damages cover the exit-fee for the school, the buy-out fee for Boise State’s entrance into the Big East and a fee that matches what each school pays the Big East.  The Big 12 will carry the $9 million dollar load for West Virginia to gain full membership to the conference on July 1, 2012.

The Big East’s model for realignment consists of Boise State, Air Force and Navy (football only), Central Florida, SMU and Houston.