Jersey, Pennsylvania sign on to lawsuit

"If this type of attempted cannibalization continues, college athletics will be tremendously affected," Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher said. New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said taxpayers could be forced to compensate for lost revenue if some Big East schools break their contracts and withdraw.


Associated Press

A Connecticut judge on Thursday is to hear preliminary arguments in the lawsuit filed by five Big East schools that aims to keep other members of their league from defecting to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Lawyers on Monday said Connecticut Superior Court Judge Samuel Sferrazza, who sits in Vernon, will consider moving the lawsuit to the state's complex case division in Waterbury.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Monday wrote the judge, saying he does not see any need to move the case, but is more concerned with how soon it can be heard.

He has asked for a speedy trial schedule, regardless of whether the case gets moved, and permission to take depositions immediately.

ACC lawyer D. Erik Albright said Waterbury appears to be the proper venue but, "We're willing to appear wherever the court tells us to appear."

Five Big East schools, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, filed the lawsuit June 6. They charged that Boston College and Miami have abandoned their financial duty to the conference and its members so they could make more money with the ACC.

It also accused the ACC of attempting to destroy the Big East as a contender in football by also grabbing Syracuse and putting the Big East at risk of losing its guaranteed berth in one of the four bowl championship series games.

Rutgers athletic director Robert E. Mulcahy III said he hoped the dispute could be solved by a deal in which the ACC would get only Miami, one of the nation's premier football programs.

"We'd love to have Miami come back," Mulcahy told The Associated Press on Monday. "If they have to go, stop it at that and let our conference survive."

"It's time that this whole thing came to an end. Reasonable people should be able to sit down and come to a compromise without destroying a league," Mulcahy said.

His proposal was reported Monday in The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Also Monday, the attorneys general of New Jersey and Pennsylvania endorsed the lawsuit by the five Big East football schools.

However, the states have not decided whether to join the lawsuit or just file "friend of the court" briefs.

Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, and Pittsburgh, which receives much of its funding from Pennsylvania, could lose millions of dollars in revenue if the ACC adds schools, the attorneys general said.

"If this type of attempted cannibalization continues, college athletics will be tremendously affected," Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher said.

New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said taxpayers could be forced to compensate for lost revenue if some Big East schools break their contracts and withdraw.

New Jersey also is considering whether to file its own lawsuit, Harvey said.

Albright, the ACC lawyer, said he was not concerned about the possible entry of New Jersey and Pennsylvania into the case.

"They can have as many attorneys as they want, it doesn't change the merits of their case. As we have stated before, plaintiffs' claims have no merit," Albright said. The Big East's bylaws permit schools to leave, and set procedures and fees for doing so, he said.

Last week, the ACC added Virginia Tech to its possible expansion plan, a move that could force the school to choose between remaining as a plaintiff in the lawsuit or bowing out and accepting an invitation from the conference.

Expansion needs approval from seven of nine school presidents. Duke and North Carolina are believed to be against the plan. Adding Virginia Tech is thought to be a strategy to guarantee Virginia's vote.


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