The Ties That Bind?

Most corporations and conglomerates in these muddled days of legal pitfalls are tied together by a mountain of legal documents and paperwork, but such is not the case for the members of the Big East conference.

According to one conference offical, there's not a signed contract that keeps the members of the Big East Conference together.

"There are bylaws that all the conference members vote on and agree too, but there's not really a contract among league members," media spokesman Rob Carolla told "It takes a two-thirds vote of approval to change the bylaws. It functions as an agreement between all the teams."

Without such a contract, it would seem to be an easy thing for a team to withdraw itself from the conference. Of course, the current lawsuit by five of the conference members was filed not on the basis of the defecting members wanting to leave, but for the duplicitous manner in which they are alleged to have done so. That's a fine distinction, and one that the conference itself prefers not to be a part of.

A number of proposals have been made and floated in recent days, some of which have concerned raising the buy out fee of $1 million in order to strengthen schools' commitment to the Big East conference. However, such a strong measure might have a difficult time getting the votes needed to pass, and could drive a deeper wedge between the possible defecting members and the remaining conference schools.

Carolla did say that changes to the by laws could be proposed by any member, and that they are usually discussed and voted on at the annual meeting in May, which is attended by the athletic directors of the member schools.

In sum, it appears that the "ties that bind" aren't much more than a series of agreements between the members of the conference. And once those ties are subjected to external pressure, they can crumble like a sand castle at high tide.

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