Big East asks court to dismiss WVU lawsuit

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Dec 8, 2011

MORGANTOWN - Lawyers for the Big East Conference are asking a Monongalia Circuit Court to dismiss West Virginia University's lawsuit against the conference, which was filed in hopes of being able to move to its new home, the Big 12, more quickly.

In its motion filed with the court on Monday, the Big East argues that WVU's complaint does not state any claims upon which relief can be granted.

"Instead, (WVU) improperly tries to plead as 'claims' what in reality are attempted defenses to WVU's acknowledged breach of its obligations under the Big East bylaws," Clarksburg attorney Frank E. Simmerman Jr. and Washington-based attorney Benjamin C. Block wrote for the conference.

WVU's move to the Big 12 was announced Oct. 28. Shortly after, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto announced that the conference intended to hold WVU to a conference bylaw that requires an exiting school to give at least 27 months notice of its departure from the conference.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 31 with WVU asking Circuit Judge Russell Clawges to void the Big East conference rules and allow WVU to go ahead and join the Big 12 to begin play in 2012.

WVU cites the exits of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC and Texas Christian University's move to the Big 12 even before it became an official member of the Big East as examples of how the Big East has deteriorated as a football conference.

"As the Big East, in less than two months, had denigrated into a non-major football conference whose continued existence is in serious jeopardy, WVU had no choice but to accept the Big XII's offer," WVU's complaint states. "The denigration of the Big East football conference is a direct and proximate result of ineffective leadership and breach of fiduciary duties to the football schools by the Big East Conference and its commissioner."

WVU is asking the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the conference from blocking its move to the Big 12 next year and for compensatory damages.

WVU says it intends to leave the Big East June 30, 2012, and join the Big 12 July 1, 2012.

The university's Board of Governors claims the Big East has already accepted the $2.5 million wired to the conference as part of the $5 million exit fee.

But the Big East's lawyers say that argument doesn't fly.

"WVU's alternative request for declaratory relief on the ground that it tendered part of the required withdrawal fee under the bylaws is deficient because partial performance does not excuse full compliance," they wrote.

WVU's board also claims the conference did not uphold its end of the agreement because it allowed the conference to become unstable with several previous schools' departures.

It also points out that TCU was not required to give 27-months notice when it announced plans to leave the conference.

However, the Big East's lawyers argue in their motion to dismiss that WVU cannot allege that the conference's bylaws applied to TCU, given the recognition in its complaint that TCU was not yet a member of the Big East.

WVU has until Friday to reply to the Big East's motion. A hearing on the motions is scheduled for later this month.

The trial is tentatively set for June 25, 2012.

At a scheduling conference in Morgantown last week, WVU lawyers reportedly asked Clawges to speed up the lawsuit.

The judge, while he doubted the university's June 30, 2012 deadline could be met, agreed to an aggressive schedule for the case, according to The Associated Press.

Clawges told both sides he thinks the matter will most likely be settled, instead of going to a jury.

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