WVU is suing the Big East, what does that mean? Time to bring in someone to talk some law! J-Bren aka "Lawdog" from Orange44 joined us to talk about what this all means.
Dub-V: A brief summary of WVU's lawuit v Big East
J-Bren: WVU is basically alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary
duties in ensuring the long-term stability and success of the
conference. The allegations go back to the realignment where Miami,
Virginia Tech, and Boston College left for the ACC, and the Big East
brought in all-sports schools Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida,
non-football schools DePaul and Marquette, and upgraded UConn to D-1A
Big East football. WVU is basically saying that even at that early
stage, the Big East was not making moves to solidify its long-term
future, namely, by continuing this football/non-football dichotomy.
Additionally, WVU says that in paying that $2.5 million up front, they
sent along a contingency offer which said that "Upon the Big East
accepting this $2.5M, the Big East allows WVU to exit the conference
immediately for future cash considerations." So that since the Big
East accepted that money, they accepted that offer to essentially
opt-out of the 27-month rule and exit upon this agreement.
Dub-V: What is the strategy of filing in West Virginia?
J-Bren: You always want to be on your home turf when you're in Court.
Litigating a lawsuit in West Virginia means the judges live there,
were elected there or appointed by West Virginia folks, and if it ever
got to a jury trial, the jury would be West Virginians. In other
words, all people who would have a higher likelihood of being
sympathetic to WVU's plight.
Dub-V: How will the Big East defend itself?
J-Bren: From early indications, vigorously. The Commissioner seems to think
that he's been doing everything humanly possible to not only save this
league, but to put it on par with the other conferences and compete at
their level. This includes the once-successful attempt to bring in
Texas Christian, as well as the courting of the several schools now on
the radar. The Big East will hang its hat on having had its Automatic
Qualifying status for the BCS, and with its efforts at bringing in
other schools, a continuation of the AQ. When it comes down to money,
having that AQ and the other bowl tie-ins provides that financial
stability for the league, along with the TV contracts. The Big East
will probably have a hard time dealing with its rejection of that ESPN
renewal deal where all that money was left on the table. That's one
of the things Syracuse has pointed to in choosing to leave, and I have
seen reports from Syracuse stating that had that ESPN deal been
renewed, Syracuse would have stayed in the Big East.
Dub-V: What is the likelihood of a settlement?
J-Bren: High, based on the sheer statistics of the number of cases filed vs.
the number of cases that proceed to trial. Right now there's a lot of
posturing going on, and it's a big game of chicken. Who will flinch
first? I think if -- and this is a big if given the snail's pace at
which the Big East takes any proactive action on realignment -- if the
Big East pulls in enough schools, enough good schools, to keep their
numbers up and keep the AQ status, then the Big East will be in a much
better position to settle with WVU and move on. If they have suitable
replacements, then cut your losses and get it over with. And since,
in the end, this is all about money, if WVU plays a little Price is
Right, they can eventually find a number the Big East will be happy
Dub-V: What happens if WVU loses?
J-Bren: If WVU loses its lawsuit, then the status quo remains. They're bound
by the bylaws of the Big East, which evidently include the 27-month
notification rule and $5 million exit fee. WVU really loses nothing
(except litigation expenses) by filing this lawsuit, because they'll
eventually get to leave. Now, where that leaves the Big 12 is another
story. The impact on the Big 12 if WVU doesn't join in 2012 could be
a lot more serious, if/when Missouri leaves for the SEC.
Dub-V: Could SU, Pitt, and WVU just leave and breach the contract? If so, what are the consequences?
J-Bren: Could they? Sure, I guess. But you could rest assured that the Big
East would file for an injunction requiring the school(s) to honor the
Big East bylaws and wait out the 27-month period. Then these same
issues from WVU's lawsuit would be litigated anyway (the schools'
defense being "why should we be held to a contract when the Big East
has been in breach of the contract all these years?"). Ultimately, a
court would probably allow the premature moves and force the schools
to pay damages to the Big East for leaving early. Since that is
ultimately what WVU (and I'm assuming Pitt & Syracuse) want to do
anyway, that scenario tends to make me think that a settlement to
leave early is probably the most likely scenario. Even in spite of
all the posturing going on right now. Talk is cheap.
A big thanks to J-Bren for the breakdown.