By Brian Murphy
The Big East and West Virginia announced Tuesday that they have reached a settlement, allowing the Mountaineers to leave for the Big 12 this fall.
West Virginia will pay "an exit fee well in excess of that required" by the league for leaving early, the Big East said in a statement. It has been reported that West Virginia will pay the league $20 million with some of the money coming from the Big 12. West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck said no state, taxpayer, tuition or academic support money will be used.
The move leaves the Big East with just seven FBS football-playing members for the 2012 season and create scheduling problems for all the remaining members.
Boise State, which is scheduled to join the league in 2013, is considering moving a year early. The Big East is a BCS AQ conference, meaning its champion goes to the BCS regardless of record.
The Western Athletic Conference is prepared to accommodate the rest of Boise State's sports in 2012-13, a year earlier than anticipated.
It would cost Boise State between $7.5 million and $9 million to depart the Mountain West this fall. The Mountain West, which would have nine teams without Boise State, would not face the same scheduling problems as the Big East since the league has planned to play an eight-game schedule.
In his only public comments on the matter, Boise State President Bob Kustra told the Idaho Statesman earlier this month that the Broncos were unlikely to change conferences for the 2012-13 season.
"It's too late. I can't imagine how anyone can pull that off. We would never want to pull it off in a fashion that dealt shabbily with our existing partners in the Mountain West. I don't think that could ever work," Kustra said.
Statement from Big East
BIG EAST TERMINATES WEST VIRGINIA’S MEMBERSHIP
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- 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.
Statement from West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University has reached a settlement agreement with the Big East Conference in the pending civil actions in West Virginia and Rhode Island, WVU officials confirmed today.
WVU will officially begin its full membership in the Big 12 Conference in July.
“Our membership in the Big 12 offers WVU significant advantages,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Oliver Luck. “The Big 12 is a strong and vibrant conference academically and athletically. We look forward to the potential academic and athletic partnerships and financial opportunities that membership in the Big 12 offers."
Luck said the agreement prohibits discussion of the details, but stressed that no state or taxpayer funds, tuition or academic support monies will be used to pay the settlement. Any settlement funding transferred, according to Luck, will come from private sources and independently generated athletic revenues.
WVU President Jim Clements stressed the importance of the University’s future direction.
"We are in great company in the Big 12, joining a group of world-class research universities – many of them large public land-grant flagship institutions like WVU,” Clements said. “These schools have quality academics, research, athletic programs, winning traditions and loyal, passionate fans.”
He added, “Our partnership with the Big 12 is an investment in WVU's future. We're looking forward to the tremendous opportunities it presents – all across our university."
Luck said of the settlement: “This closes a chapter and opens a new one filled with exciting possibilities for WVU’s future. I’ve heard from Mountaineer fans across the country who have made it very clear that they are proud and honored to be heading into the Big 12.”
Clements and Luck thanked West Virginia fans everywhere, as well as the governor, United States senators and representatives, the attorney general, state senators and delegates for their support these past few months.
WVU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 in late October.