Documents: WVU's Big East Exit Contentious

Posted Nov 7, 2011

The framework of the legal complaint West Virginia University ultimately filed against the Big East Conference Oct. 31 in Monongalia County Court was spelled out briefly in WVU's formal letter of withdrawal from the league, according to documents obtained by

The letter written from WVU president James P. Clements to Big East commissioner John Marinatto, dated Friday, Oct. 28 (obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request) includes discussion of Big East's denigration, a cornerstone of the lawsuit WVU filed three days later.

"After the withdrawal of the University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University and Texas Christian University from the conference, and repeated public comments by the University of Connecticut regarding its desire to exit the conference, the Big East is no longer viable as a football conference," Clements wrote.

"Since the time of those withdrawals and public comments, WVU has considered its options and has decided to accept an invitation from the Big XII conference."

The first sentence of the letter indicated West Virginia's withdrawal would be effective June 30, 2012. Clements further promised WVU would "work with [Marinatto] amicably regarding all details of its withdrawal from the conference."

However, the tone of the correspondence quickly changed, with a response from Marinatto also dated Oct. 28 establishing the Big East's position that West Virginia had no right to avoid the conference's mandatory 27-month waiting period to withdraw.

"The letter you sent is not effective as a 'Withdrawal Notice' pursuant to The BIG EAST Conference Amended and Restated Bylaws," Marinatto wrote to Clements in an email. "The earliest date on which West Virginia could withdraw from The BIG EAST is June 30, 2014."

Marinatto went on to tell Clements that WVU's initial $2.5 million exit payment, as required by Big East bylaws, "should accompany a proper Withdrawal Notice."

"Should West Virginia refuse to abide by the Bylaws, the Conference reserves all of its rights to pursue appropriate recourse ..." Marinatto wrote.

That message was forwarded from Clements to WVU general counsel William H. Hutchens, III.

Hutchens wrote to Marinatto on Saturday, Oct. 29 requesting contact information for the Big East's attorneys "so that we might discuss the legal matters you referred to in last night's letter."

The documented conversations end there. Within 48 hours, WVU had filed its complaint against the Big East.

The conference responded in kind by Friday, asking a court in Providence County, R.I., for an injunction to keep West Virginia from leaving the Big East before 2014 and monetary damages.

Editor's Note: The entire chain of communications between WVU officials and Big East commissioner John Marinatto, as obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, can be viewed here: WVU-Big East Documents

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