Apparently, West Virginia was a bit presumptuous.
The Big East and its embattled commissioner John Marinatto aren’t in a negotiating mood. Instead, they are in a litigious mood.
On Friday, the conference decided to pursue its own legal action against WVU. The Big East filed a suit in the Superior Court for the State of Rhode Island, Providence County. In the suit, the conference seeks an order that would make WVU comply with Big East bylaws.
This response is not a huge surprise as the programs that still remain have been adamant that they will hold he leftovers hostage for the next 27 months. So as of today, Pittsburgh and Syracuse won’t leave for the ACC and WVU won’t jet around the Big 12 until the 2014 season.
“Today’s legal action underscores the Big East Conference’s stated position that it will vigorously pursue the enforcement of its rights and West Virginia University’s obligations under the conference’s Bylaws which West Virginia formally agreed to and helped construct,” Marinatto said in the official release.
So does this mean the door is closed on any of the three leaving before the 27-month waiting period?
It’s not looking good.
First, it doesn’t appear anyone at the conference office is in the mood to negotiate with the Big East deserters. WVU’s lawsuit may have actually backfired. Mountaineer officials were probably hoping it would speed up the negotiation so WVU would learn just how much it would cost them to leave early.
Instead, Big East officials got pissed and fired back.
WVU and its legal team are probably regrouping right now. The fight is far from over, but the game plan may have to change a bit to get the Big East back to the negotiating table (and it’s not clear if it has ever been at the table).
It would also be nice to know what Pitt and Syracuse officials are saying about these battling lawsuits. Clearly if WVU figures a way out, then those two will follow right along. But by staying out of the legal system, it makes them look much better than WVU.
WVU and the Big 12 have some bargaining power that could be helpful to the negotiation.
Since Missouri still hasn’t committed to the SEC, WVU could stay in the Big East for one more season and then work on a way out for the 2013 season. The Big 12 could also promise support to the Big East when the new BCS contract rolls around.
This would also be a negotiating ploy by the Big East with the ACC. In the end, Marinatto and the remaining Big East teams can’t lose their BCS status. If holding Pitt, Syracuse and WVU hostage until 2014 costs them a BCS berth, then the fight wasn’t worth it.
So why is the Big East playing hard ball?
Well, the Big East has to draw a line in sand. The Big East brand has been decimated, but by standing pat on the 27-month sentence the conference is sending a message to Louisville, Connecticut, Rutgers and any other program that’s thinking about leaving in the future.
It also sends a message to potential new members.
I also believe Marinatto and the remaining members feel once the conference expands, Pitt, Syracuse and WVU might actually reconsider their decision.
At this point there’s probably too much bad blood to salvage anything, but you just never know in this crazy game of conference realignment.