Today the Big 12 officially announced West Virginia as the conference’s tenth member. You can read the Big 12’s release here. (Yes, this one was intentionally released). While the Big East remains insistent that the 27 month exit will govern, West Virginia, as OKTC has told you multiple times, is effectively calling the Big East’s bluff. The Big 12 release specifically says West Virginia will commence play in 2012. “The Big 12 Conference Board of Directors have voted unanimously to accept West Virginia University as a full conference member effective July 1, 2012. The Mountaineers will begin competing in the Big 12 beginning with the 2012-13 athletic season.”
The Big 12 release also informs you of something OKTC has been saying for over a month, the Big 12 will be playing with ten members. Which school is absent from the ten school conference list in the West Virginia release? Missouri. Which means, as we’ve been telling you for two months, Missouri will be the SEC’s 14th team and commence play in 2012. All that remains now is legal wrangling over exactly what the penalties will be for leaving conference members. If the Big East is smart, it will seek the outcome I laid out yesterday in the Travis Compromise (many of you also suggested Mizzou Compromise).
The Big East’s primary responsibility has to be protecting their BCS bid.
The best way to protect that BCS bid? Extract promises from the Big 12, the SEC, and the ACC to continue those conference’s support of the Big East’s BCS bid in exchange for not fighting over the depature dates.
After all, how much money can the Big East really extract over early departures? As we’ve told you before, it’s not likely to be a winning argument. No court in America is going to compel West Virginia to play in the Big East for two more seasons.
One of our esteemed legal readers — Chuck Ivey, IV — even undertook his own legal investigation of the Big East bylaws. He researched the 2004 lawsuit involving Boston College vs. the Big East Conference and took this language from the opinion:
The case is Trustees of Boston College v. Big East Conference, 18 Mass.L.Rptr. 177, 2004 WL 1926799 (Mass.Super. Aug. 18, 2004).
3.06. Withdrawal of Member
(a) A “Conference Year” begins July 1 and ends June 30. All withdrawals shall be effective at the beginning of the Conference Year. A Member may withdraw from the Conference by providing written notice to each of the other Members and the Commissioner at least one year in advance of the start of the Conference Year for which the withdrawal shall be effective. For example, a withdrawal effective for the Conference Year commencing July 1, 2002 must be given no later than June 30, 2001.
(b) If such withdrawal notice is timely given in accordance with subsection (a) above, the withdrawing Member shall pay the Conference a withdrawal fee of $1 million.
(c) If such withdrawal notice is not timely given in accordance with subsection (a) above, the withdrawing Member shall pay the Conference a withdrawal fee of $2 million.
(d) The withdrawal fee shall be paid in full prior to June 1 of the last Conference Year during which the withdrawing school shall be a Member. For example, for the Member who gives notice of withdrawal effective July 1, 2002, such withdrawal fee shall be paid no later than June 1, 2002.
Quoth Ivey in an analyis that I agree with: “The way I read this—and it is certainly subject to any amendments that conference may have made since 2004—but under this version, it sounds like all a current member has to do in order to leave early (i.e., 2012 or whenever) is pay double the exit fee. Heck, even if those terms were changed to require triple the amount of liquidated damages…that would still be chump change to some of these schools.”
There have been reports that the Big East’s exit fee is now $5 million. If so, that represents an amendment to the current bylaws. But if the current provision continues to govern then the penalty for leaving without proper notice appears to be a doubling of the exit fee.
Again, the particular provisions of the Big East bylaws dealing with withdrawal are not presently available. But the langauge in these bylaws suggests it isn’t that restrictive or economically punitive.
Again, the best move for the Big East is to do whatever it can to keep the automatic qualifying bid. That means compromising on the exit timetable.
OKTC would like to thank y’all for choosing to stay informed on conference realignment here. We’ll stay on top of the story going forward, but OKTC has broken more news than every major news site combined on conference realignment.
Read all of OKTC’s conference realignment stories here.