Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this.
The University of Pittsburgh filed a lawsuit Friday in Allegheny County Court in an effort to leave the Big East after the 2012-13 academic year, one season earlier than required by the conference.
Pitt also asked for unspecified monetary damages, according to a 34-page court filing.
Pitt maintains the Big East relinquished its required 27-month waiting period for departing members by not holding West Virginia and TCU to the standard when they announced last year they were leaving the conference, the lawsuit states.
Apparently Pitt had begun negotiations with now-deposed Big East Commish John Marinatto about Pitt getting out after the 2012-13 season — as was widely expected. The problem was, talks had abruptly ended a few weeks ago. Something that shouldn’t be a surprise in light of Marinatto’s firing since according to the reports of Marinatto’s demise, the firing “had been building for weeks.”As such, it should be no surprise that the Big East powers started cutting off Marinatto’s authority.
And in fact, the Pitt press release on the matter seems to indicate as much.
“A few weeks ago, [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson met with [Big East commissioner] John Marinatto to begin the process to work toward an exit after this upcoming academic year,” according to the statement. “The commissioner indicated that he was doing this with the authorization of the Chair of the Big East Presidents. However, attempts to contact the Big East in the following weeks to move the process forward have been unsuccessful, leading us to conclude that negotiations would not occur.”
While still an athletic member of the conference, with Pitt leaving the conference they do not have any contact with the conference workings any more. As such, they would not have been privy to the “why” Marinatto and the Big East would not discuss the matter at this time. That would explain why they began working on a lawsuit shortly after the silence in negotiations.
It strikes me as a bit impatient by Pitt, after learning that Marinatto was out this week. But apparently, since Pitt had finished putting the claim together, they went for it.
The other aspect is the complaint for damages. That strikes me as part of the negotiation to get the exit fee as close to the $5 million number as possible. AD Steve Pederson has been emphatic that Pitt has no interest in paying more than $5 million to go, even with leaving a year earlier than the terms stipulate.
…sharing revenue received by the conference in the 2011-12 conference year, including money received from TCU and WVU; and reimbursement for damages such as the fees Pitt paid to secure the lost home games with TCU and WVU and to secure replacement games with lesser rivals, the lost ticket sales from disappointed fans, court costs and other financial losses.
Pitt states in its complaint that in addition to the $5 million fee it must pay to withdraw from the conference, it has lost $520,000 in buyout fees and game fees as a result of the Big East’s decision to allow TCU to withdraw.
Under terms of the Big East (and most conferences) once you give notice of leaving, you forfeit rights to a lot of the shared income the conference distributes. This would include NCAA Tournament appearance money, shares of the bowl money, and so on.
This case will never go to trial. It forces the Big East to come to the table with Pitt sooner than they wanted. They have a lot on their plate at the moment. Boise State might be getting cold feet. The conference has to find a new commissioner. They have their media rights deal to negotiate.
From the Big East side of things, this is almost like spiking the ball. The conference is in renewed turmoil. The ACC — where Pitt and Cuse are headed — just announced a nice bump in their media rights. And now Pitt is demanding they deal with them right now.