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WVU primed for $11 million Big East cash payment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University is moving fast toward resolving its legal issues with the Big East Conference and joining the Big 12.

Sources familiar with the negotiations told the Daily Mail Wednesday the university is nearly finished with a resolution to pay a "cash settlement" of $11 million to complete its exit from the Big East.

Other conditions could be involved. One source said the Big East is aware the best way to mitigate damages sustained by losing WVU is by adding a future Big East member sooner than previously planned.

Boise State, for example, is set to join the Big East in 2013, but would have to pay a $5 million buyout to leave the Mountain West Conference early. The Big East - and by extension, WVU - could pay that fee and replace WVU with a school that lessens any damages the Big East might incur by losing the Mountaineers.

Navy plans to join in 2015, but has no conference affiliation. The Midshipmen could come for a smaller price and only have to address the games they would have to cancel by joining early.

Chuck Neinas, the Big 12's interim commissioner, said last week the conference would ask its board of directors to help WVU if the Mountaineers were to ask for assistance. A WVU source said previously the Big 12 was expected to help with any financial settlement.

The university has already paid half of its $5 million exit fee to the Big East. A WVU source said Wednesday the Big East does not owe WVU any money from the 2010 Final Four run, a complaint the university previously raised.

The lawsuit resolution will be announced soon, perhaps as early as today, when the two sides are scheduled to have a status conference at 8:30 a.m. with Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein.

WVU announced in October it was joining the Big 12 after being in the Big East since 1991. The Big East expected WVU to adhere to the conference's 27-month waiting period before it would join the Big 12, but the university sued the conference later in the month to discount the waiting period.

In a lawsuit filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court, WVU alleged the Big East had breached its contract with WVU and nullified the bylaws that spell out the waiting period.

WVU said the Big East had failed to "maintain, let alone enhance the quality of competition in the league" as it sustained membership losses. Syracuse and Pittsburgh both announced in September they were leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

WVU argued that remaining in the Big East was hazardous for its athletic department and that it was worried about the conference losing the automatic bid into the Bowl Championship Series that goes to the conference champion.

The Mountaineers have played in and won three BCS bowls the past seven years.

The Big East countered by filing its own lawsuit against WVU in Rhode Island in November. The Big East wanted a Rhode Island judge to force WVU to abide by the 27-month waiting period and accused the university of violating the bylaws with its inappropriate exit.

The two sides have engaged in various mediation and court sessions in both West Virginia and Rhode Island since filing their lawsuits.

Sources told the Daily Mail the university believed it had made a "generous" offer and would hold firm to that figure. The source said WVU had no intention to compete in a Big East schedule for any of its sports that were eligible for Big 12 competition in the 2012-13 seasons.

The source said it was ultimately up to the Big East to accept the offer or to further litigate the matter and risk a judgment that could generate a lower final figure.

During a Wednesday conference call to discuss the University of Memphis' addition to the conference, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto avoided questions about the lawsuits and any negotiations.

According to multiple media reports, Marinatto reiterated the conference's previous stance on its three departing members.

"West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are members of the Big East Conference, as I've stated many times, until July 1st of 2014," he said.

Marinatto declined to comment beyond that.

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

 


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