Clawges enters order denying Big East's motion to dismiss

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jan 11, 2012


MORGANTOWN - A Monongalia Circuit Court judge this week released the order in which he denied the Big East Conference's motion to dismiss West Virginia University's lawsuit against it last month.

At a Dec. 19 hearing, lawyers for the Big East and WVU appeared before Judge Russell Clawges. That same day, Clawges denied the conference's motion to dismiss WVU's suit.

WVU filed the lawsuit in hopes of being able to move to its new home, the Big XII, more quickly.

Just last week -- amid Orange Bowl activities -- WVU President Jim Clements and Athletic Director Oliver Luck reaffirmed that the university would be a member of the Big XII July 1.

"The court notes that West Virginia's liberal notice pleading standards are applicable in adjudicating the Big East's Rule 12(b)(6) motion," Clawges wrote in his three-page order entered Tuesday.

"Accepting all of WVU's allegations as true, the court finds that WVU's First Amended Complaint sets forth sufficient allegations to withstand the Big East's 12(b)(6) motion."

The judge has yet to rule on another motion from the Big East that asks the court to move the lawsuit to Rhode Island, the conference's home base.

Clawges told lawyers last month that he wanted more time to consider the motion, and that he would make a decision in January.

Meanwhile, a Rhode Island judge has denied WVU's request to dismiss the lawsuit filed against it by the Big East.

Four days after WVU filed its lawsuit in West Virginia, the Big East countersued in Rhode Island.

The Big East essentially asked the circuit court in West Virginia to dismiss the lawsuit but wanted the Rhode Island court to proceed against WVU on identical claims.

The university has called the Big East's move "a poorly veiled attempt" at changing venues.

WVU argued that the Rhode Island court did not have the authority to decide the matter, and that it should be heard in West Virginia, where the first civil lawsuit was filed.

The university also claimed it couldn't be sued in Rhode Island because it has sovereign immunity as an agency of the state of West Virginia, and that it was not properly notified of the conference's lawsuit.

On Dec. 27, Providence County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein rejected all of WVU's arguments for dismissal.

Given his ruling, Silverstein is expected to consider another motion by the Big East for a preliminary injunction.

The conference, in a motion filed Dec. 14, wants the judge to force WVU to participate in all scheduled Big East athletic events until the lawsuit is resolved.

WVU's move to the Big XII was announced Oct. 28.

Shortly after, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the conference intended to hold the university to a conference bylaw that requires an exiting school to give at least 27 months notice of its departure from the conference.

WVU then filed its lawsuit Oct. 31, asking Clawges to void the Big East conference rules and allow the university to go ahead and join the Big XII to begin play in 2012.

The university says it intends to leave the Big East June 30 and join the Big XII July 1.

WVU cites the exits of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Texas Christian University's move to the Big XII -- 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 wrote in its complaint.

"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."

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