University of Pittsburgh sues Big East to guarantee 2013 exit

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It’s been nothing but turmoil for the Big East in terms of its membership over the last year. And if that weren’t enough, the conference now has a lawsuit on its hands.

Pittsburgh, in a move to guarantee that they’re able to leave the Big East following the 2012-13 academic year, has decided to sue the Big East as reported by both Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

With Boise State reportedly having second thoughts on joining the conference in 2013 as a football-playing member, there may be concern in the Pittsburgh camp that the league could make them wait until the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

Pittsburgh, who along with Syracuse announced their move to the ACC back in September, would like to have this issue resolved in a manner that allows them to avoid the full 27-month waiting period.

According to Big East bylaws (before the conference expanded recently), departing members must give 27 months notice and pay $5 million dollars to the conference.

But as currently constituted the Big East would have 12 football-playing members not counting Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

If anything, this is a move to make sure that no matter what happens with Big East membership the Panthers are able to join the ACC on July 1, 2013.

Below is Pittsburgh’s statement on taking this action against the Big East:

“Since the University of Pittsburgh made the decision to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, we have done everything possible to move through a smooth transition with the Big East. Though we have been excluded from governance activities, meetings, decision-making and operational functions of the conference, we have been positive and respectful of the Big East.

“On September 26, 2011, when we notified the Big East that we were withdrawing from the conference, we paid the first half of the exit fee of $5 million. When the 2012-13 season is complete, we will have competed in the Big East for two seasons, thus providing ample time to re-form the Big East Conference for the future. Beginning with the 2013-14 season, the Big East will actually have four more football playing schools and more schools overall than when we gave notice that we were moving to a different conference.

“Although the Big East’s stated position is that we must stay through the 2013-14 season, the Big East acknowledged publicly that a discussion of our departure after the 2012-13 season was appropriate. A few weeks ago, Steve Pederson met with John Marinatto to begin the process to work toward an exit after this upcoming academic year. The Commissioner indicated that he was doing this with the authorization of the Chair of the Big East Presidents. However, attempts to contact the Big East in the following weeks to move the process forward have been unsuccessful, leading us to conclude that negotiations would not occur.

“Given the change in leadership of the Big East and the lack of response to our attempted contacts, on Friday, May 11, 2012, we filed a law suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, seeking resolution of this matter. We are confident in our position as stated in the complaint, but believe that this matter is best resolved between the parties. We have notified the Big East of this action, and continue to hope that our departure can be accommodated through private negotiations.”

Never a dull day in the Big East, who has one more issue to address heading into the summer.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.