Pitt’s Big East lawsuit heading to federal court

By Andrew Shull

The University’s lawsuit against the Big East Conference changed venues this week, as the Big… The University’s lawsuit against the Big East Conference changed venues this week, as the Big East had the case moved to federal court.

On June 4, lawyers representing the Big East petitioned to have the suit moved from the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, because not all parties involved are citizens of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit, originally filed on May 11, alleged that the Big East held Pitt to different standards than West Virginia University and Texas Christian University, both of which sought to exit the Big East before the end of the 27-month exit window back in October. The Commonwealth System of Higher Education has also joined the University against the Big East.

Pitt paid half of the $5 million exit fee back in September when it announced its departure from the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference and also agreed to stay in the conference until July 1, 2014, but now it wants out earlier.

The Big East holds the right to stop its member schools from leaving the conference for 27 months, but Pitt’s complaint alleges that the Big East forfeited the right to enforce that waiting period against it because the league did not enforce the same waiting period against WVU and TCU.

Pitt is also seeking monetary damages from the conference. Pitt is asking the Big East to pay $250,000 because it had to buy out its contract with Southern Florida to make room for a game against TCU.

When TCU left the conference, Pitt paid Gardner-Webb University $320,000 to take that roster spot. Pitt wants the Big East to pay for both fees, as well as compensate Pitt for losses in ticket sales, because Gardner-Webb is a less attractive draw than TCU.

However, the Big East’s filing from June 4 to move the case to federal court said that the reason TCU decided not to join the conference was due to Pitt’s decision to leave the conference early.

TCU had a clean departure because it wasn’t yet a member of the conference and didn’t have to pay the $5 million exit fee.

West Virginia faced a back-and-forth lawsuit between the Big East, but eventually settled out of court for $20 million.