West Virginia: Big East to court: Make Mountaineers play

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The Big East Conference has asked Rhode Island Superior Court to issue an injunction requiring West Virginia to participate in conference athletic contests until an exit plan for the school is resolved in the courts.

The motion contends an early exit by West Virginia would create major scheduling problems and have an adverse financial impact on the Big East's contracts with ESPN, CBS and the league's bowl partners.

The injunction request was filed Wednesday, two days before the Rhode Island court considered West Virginia's motion to dismiss the Big East's lawsuit.

Judge Michael Silverstein, who is presiding, "will not take that [the injunction] up -- or any additional issues -- until he has ruled on jurisdiction, which was the main point of WVU's motion to dismiss," according to Craig N. Berke, the court's public information officer.

On Monday, a West Virginia court denied the Big East's motion to dismiss a breach of contract suit filed by West Virginia in late October.

Litigation began in late October when West Virginia announced a plan to join the Big 12 by July 1, 2012, then sued in a West Virginia court to leave the Big East early. The Big East countersued in Rhode Island, trying to force them to stay roughly two years longer under conference bylaw exit rules.

Friday, Judge Silverstein heard West Virginia's argument to dismiss the Rhode Island suit and gave both sides until this Wednesday to file additional information. A decision on jurisdiction is expected later this week or next week.

In the request for the preliminary injunction, the Big East laid out the scheduling problems that would arise, and the financial impact that would have on both the conference and its member schools.

"If WVU were to withdraw early, each remaining member would suddenly have an open game date that it would need to fill. That date would be during the period when most schools are committed to conference games," the motion reads. "It would be difficult, if not impossible, for each Member school to fill these holes, let alone to fill them with a quality opponent that would not detrimentally affect the Member's BCS standing or bowl eligibility."

The motion also says reconfiguring the schedule this late could force programs to fill with lower-level teams, which could hurt bowl eligibility.

The motion goes on to explain that an early departure would also affect how the Big East and its members are "perceived by potential recruits."

The motion also contends an early exit would undermine the Big East's existing and future contracts with TV and bowl partners. The Big East says its ESPN contract would be subject to renegotiation and possible arbitration.

Its contract with CBS for basketball, according to the motion, allows CBS to negotiate a reduction in the rights fees it owes the Big East in the event a member leaves early for any reason.

Both TV contracts are set for renegotiation in 2013.


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