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Split from Big East is nearing for WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- In the hopefully not-too-distant future, West Virginia and the Big East Conference are going to drop their weapons and end this legal tug-o-war.

The two sides are supposed to sit down for a court-scheduled status conference Thursday and engage in non-binding mediation. It sure seems like all work preceding a resolution is done.

Either that, or WVU made a colossal and arrogant mistake on Friday when it told Florida State it was begging out of the 2012 game between the schools.

That's going to cost WVU $500,000 - a $350,000 penalty in the game contract plus $150,000 in damages because WVU breached the contract after a certain date - although the Big 12 could be benevolent to its newest acquisition and pick up that tab, one that's smallish when put next to the many millions of dollars the Mountaineers will need to buy their freedom from the Big East.

And that freedom is coming. Has to be. There's no reason to think otherwise at this point. Cutting Florida State loose is both a matter of scheduling logistics and a tip about the future.

The Mountaineers had four non-conference games on the 2012 schedule. A Big 12 schedule has nine conference games. Teams can only play 12.  Do the addition and you understand the subtraction. WVU sacrificed the Seminoles because there would be no room for them on the schedule.

There's no way West Virginia dismisses Florida State unless the Mountaineers are absolutely certain they won't be a part of the Big East in 2012 and has a guarantee from the Big East. We could see that Thursday.

It could be that the two sides have already reached a proposed settlement and that they'll submit it to the judge that requested this hearing.

That judge will then agree or disagree with the proposal and make sure the terms are fair and equal for both sides and any third parties that may be involved and affected by the conclusion.

Then it's just a matter hand-wringing, as WVU tries to justify the expense relative to the act, especially now as Syracuse and Pitt make tidy, patient Big East exits for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The money spent on Florida State could be misleading. Again, the Big 12, which hopes to have the WVU as soon as possible, could cover the buyout or contribute to it - but not yet, or not in a way to involve itself in the lawsuit.

There's also a condition in the game contract that could allow WVU to get away for free if Florida State can find a comparable opponent. If WVU does leave the Big East, there are then seven Big East schools that will need a game and would love to play at Doak Campbell Stadium and probably on national television, too.

Yet good luck getting the Seminoles to agree that any of those Big East replacements are comparable - and hasn't WVU kind of suggested it is beyond compare in the Big East by forcing its exit?

The Seminoles might also end up paying WVU. The two schools had a series set for 2012 and 2013 and only the 2012 game has been nixed. The 2013 game is scheduled for Mountaineer Field and WVU won't mind playing host for that occasion.

Florida State might object to a one-game contract for a road game and buy its way out of the game, which would essentially return to WVU whatever money it spends on erasing the 2012 game.

Still, that fee and that issue are both smaller than what the Mountaineers are involved in with the Big East. There are millions and millions and millions of dollars included in the outcome and WVU is going to have to pay. How much and to who are the things lawyers on each side are settling.

There are various components involved, but it seems the most important are how much WVU owes for its exit, how much the Big East will financially miss WVU between its exit date and the end of the 27-month period and how much WVU owes for damaging the Big East.

They can have their mediation. I've had meditation on a bunch of planes and in a bunch of hotel rooms. I see $22.5 million.

The Mountaineers still owe half of their $2.5 million exit fee. The other two variables are trickier to determine and we can only guess.

The Big East can argue that WVU has been very good for business and that the conference, by the bylaws, should be privy to income all the way through the 27 months. By leaving early, the Mountaineers are keeping money from the conference.

The most the Big East has made off of WVU was $7.9 million in 2009-10. For the Big East's trouble, let's say $15 million for the two years it will be without WVU.

The damages are much harder to determine because you need to put a dollar sign on how much WVU hurts or sullies the Big East.

This is an obtuse comparison, but when John Beilein argued $1 million off his buyout in 2007, his lawyer stated WVU wasn't really damaged that much, and therefore didn't need the full $2.5 million in liquidated damages, because it quickly hired a really good coach as Beilein's replacement.

Basically, Bob Huggins gave WVU valuable publicity and spiked ticket sales and generally helped the Mountaineers come out of the thing looking good. The Big East might have a Bob Huggins out there, and this is where I make things interesting.  

If WVU leaves, there are seven Big East schools left damaged because they each need a game for, say, $1 million apiece. Suppose, though, that WVU helped Boise State out of the Mountain West.

 The Broncos are coming anyway (for 2013-14), so why not agree to have WVU speed up things? Let the Mountaineers pay the Broncos' $5 million exit fee to the Mountain West and have Boise State fill WVU's spot in the Big East.

Now those seven teams have an opponent and the Big East has its Bob Huggins, a very good program that has for the past several years been similar, equal to or better than the WVU program the Big East is about to lose.

And that's that, a clean, fair conclusion that's good for everyone, especially because it's over.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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