Last Friday, West Virginia announced its intention to leave the Big East and begin play in the Big 12 on July 1, 2012. The Big East released a statement saying that it would hold WVU to the 27-month notice period, just as it is doing with Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Both sides made their opening stands. but it seemed as if that would just be the first move in a negotiated dance that would result in a compromise settlement that would allow West Virginia out of the league on June 20.
Apparently, however, the league stood firm on its position. If it had agreed to talks, West Virginia certainly would not have filed a lawsuit this afternoon in Monongalia County Circuit Court, asking for a judgment based on breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and lack of leadership by the league.
WVU is seeking four remedies for its complaint. Two of them would put WVU out of the Big East and into the Big 12: an order that the Big East's Agreement is void, or a summary judgment that the Big East accepts WVU's bid to immediately withdraw, and an permanent enjoinder that would prohibit the league from enforcing the 27-month notice provision. These serve as the meat and potatoes of the suit -- getting West Virginia out of the league by July 1. The other two remedies, which ask for an award of damages due to the alleged breaches of contact and for any other circumstances, are pretty much window dressing. West Virginia would surely waive any damage claims in return for an agreement to let it out of the league in eight months.
The suit, obviously, is West Virginia's last attempt to get the Big East to the bargaining table. It doesn't want a protracted battle, but that's exactly what will occur if the two sides don't sit down together to work on a mutually acceptable solution. That doesn't appear to be an option, though, based on the Big East's response late Monday:
"We are disappointed that West Virginia has adopted this strategy and cannot imagine why it believes it does not have to respect and honor the bylaws it agreed to as a member of the Big East," Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a prepared statement. "Based on an initial review of the lawsuit, it is clear that the allegations and claims in it are false and inaccurate. Certainly there is nothing in it that would justify WVU's not fulfilling its obligations. To put it simply, a contract is a contract.
"Once we have reviewed the filing, we will explore all our legal options and will act vigorously to ensure that WVU lives up to all its obligations to our conference. In the meantime, this lawsuit will not interfere in any way with our ongoing efforts to strengthen and expand the Big East."