The lawsuit it settled, West Virginia is officially headed to the Big 12 in time for the 2012-13 season. Here is the link to a short story about it and here is the Big East's official statement:
The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors has voted to terminate West Virginia University’s membership in the Conference, effective June 30, 2012. This vote is conditioned on WVU fulfilling its obligations under a settlement agreement with the Conference that resolves the litigation between the parties.
“West Virginia University has acknowledged and agreed that the Court in Monongalia County, West Virginia, will enter a judgment that the BIG EAST Conference Bylaws are valid and enforceable, and will dismiss with prejudice all of West Virginia’s claims against the Conference.” stated John Marinatto Commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference.
The Bylaws establish the circumstances by which a member may unilaterally withdraw from the Conference, which includes payment of an exit fee and a minimum of 27 months’ notice. The Bylaws also provide that the Conference may, by 3/4 vote, terminate the membership of any member and that is the process by which West Virginia University will depart as a member of The BIG EAST Conference.
In deciding to terminate West Virginia University’s membership, the Conference took into account the accusations that WVU asserted against the BIG EAST in the lawsuit that is now being dismissed. The Conference also took into account the steps that West Virginia University was willing to take to resolve the litigation, including the payment of an exit fee well in excess of that required by the Bylaws. In light of all of these factors, the BIG EAST Conference felt that it was in its best interest to terminate West Virginia University’s membership and conclude the litigation.
The BIG EAST Conference wishes the West Virginia University student-athletes success in their future athletic endeavors. With the recent addition of Boise State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, San Diego State University, Southern Methodist University, and the United States Naval Academy, the future for the BIG EAST Conference has never been brighter.
Now, what does this mean for Pitt, well, that is the million dollar question. At this point, the answer is, nobody seems to know and that means the answer is not much. I think everyone involved has agreed that there is no way Pitt will still be in the Big East in 2013-14 even though that falls within the 27-month period but the question is can - or more accurately will - Pitt get out for this year?
I've gone back and forth with this based on conversations I've had with people because there are so many variables but it seems clear Pitt is not going to pony up a bunch of cash to make it happen and thus unless there is some other magic wand we don't know about it, I just don't see how a deal is going to get done.
The one silver bullet that Pitt has is in its pocket, at least according to a lawyer who talked to our own Jenn Menendez about all of this- but absent of being willing to pay money, I'm not sure it has any teeth -- is that one reason the Big East softened its stance and agreed to settle with WVU is that at the end of the day the conference realized it can't really force anyone to stay if the school wants to play elsewhere.
But time is ticking in terms of the need for conferences and networks to get their schedules out. Pitt at this point has not yet commented on the development but keep in mind two key points that make WVU's case a little different than Pitt's case.
1.) West Virginia's brass promised the Big 12 they'd be able to get out of the Big East by 2012 so the school was desperate to do whatever it took to make that happen. In fact, one of the main reasons the Mountaineers were picked over several other schools - including one, whose athletic director I spoke to - is because they boldly made that promise. So there was pressure to get this deal done and that's why the price tag is $20 million. The ACC is not pressure Pitt or Syracuse to come this year, so the two schools, while the would love to leave now, can be a little bit patient.
2) West Virginia filed its lawsuit in part by making the claim that the Big East, without Pitt, Syracuse and TCU, was not the same conference it signed up for and thus they should be allowed to move on. It would be hard for Pitt to make that claim seeing as Pitt and Syracuse triggered TCU and WVU leaving. The other thing is, unless the Big East can convince a few teams to fill some spots it would be a five-team conference in 2012 without Pitt and Syracuse and I'm not sure that the conference brass would allow that to happen.
If Pitt were to stay in the Big East for this year, it would really be a disaster now when you consider it would have to play six conference games and six nonconference games and that likely means the home schedule would be littered with a who's who of teams from the lower reaches of the football subdivision and Division I-AA. But at this point, absent of Steve Pederson and company completely changing their stance on offering to pay more money to leave, I'm not sure what the next step realistically could be.
West Virginia released its Big 12 schedule - Baylor, TCU, K-State, Oklahoma and Kansas visit Mountaineer Field and they are at Texas, Texas State, Oklahoma State and the Fighting Paul Rhoads....(along with Maryland, Marshall and James Madison)
Now, if you do the math, the Mountaineers will only have three spots for nonconference games just like Pitt so we very well could have witnessed the end of the Backyard Brawl last year. And Thursday night could be the last time the two teams play in hoops for a while also - though I would be very disappointed if they didn't keep that series going because there are enough non-conference spots in basketball that the two schools should be able to work out an annual home and home.
Oliver Luck said on a conference call today that he'd like to talk to Steve Pederson to try and see if they can't make these things work but admits that it will be tough for both sides given the limited number of spaces.
So stay tuned as I am sure this story will begin to move forward - one way or another.
Incidentally, if Pitt stays in the Big East its home schedule at this point is Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Louisville. Pitt will have to add two more home games - and from what I understand I don't expect them to be much more than fillers - to fill the voids left by TCU and West Virginia. Pitt also goes to Buffalo, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Syracuse and South Florida.
One other football related note - Pitt received a transfer when David Durham signed with the school over the weekend. Durham is a fullback from Ohio State and this development illustrates how Pitt has come full circle in a matter of two seasons as the school is back to being the place where pro-style fullbacks and tight ends will find a home. And Durham is leaving Ohio State because they are going the opposite direction - from pro-style to spread.