Big East asks court to toss WVU suit

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Lawyers for the Big East on Monday moved to dismiss a lawsuit designed to speed the Mountaineers' departure from the conference, arguing West Virginia University's case has no legal foundation to challenge conference bylaws it is now trying to invalidate.

In motions filed with Monongalia County Circuit Court, the Big East contends WVU should be required to abide by the rules that it helped draft and repeatedly agreed to. If they don't, it's the conference -- not WVU -- that would suffer "irreparable harm."

"The lawsuit seeks, in effect, judicial blessing for WVU's breach of the bylaws," the lawyers argued.

WVU is set to respond with its own filings by Friday.

WVU wants to quit the conference immediately rather than waiting 27 months to join the Big 12 in time for the 2012 season.

It sued the Big East in Morgantown, arguing the conference had violated its fiduciary responsibility to members by failing to balance the number of football-playing and non-football schools.

But the Big East says the bylaws have no such responsibility, so WVU can't challenge them on that front. The bylaws do, however, require WVU to stay in the conference until July 2014.

WVU has offered no legal foundation for why it should be excused from the agreement, the Big East said. Complaints of "impossibility, impracticability, frustration of purpose ... do not constitute causes of action."

WVU has already sent half of the required $5 million exit fee to the Big East, and it contends that by accepting the down payment, the conference agreed to the immediate withdrawal.

The Big East calls that a "conclusory (and far-fetched) allegation," and notes it was only partial payment.

If Judge Russell Clawges opts against dismissal, the Big East wants him to put the case on hold while a parallel lawsuit plays out in Rhode Island, where the Big East is based.

The Big East countersued there Nov. 4, the same day it was served the West Virginia lawsuit.

The conference has the right to select the forum for adjudicating disputes, its lawyers argue, and WVU cannot eliminate that right "by racing to the courthouse."

Rhode Island has proper jurisdiction over the conference and is the state where commissioner John Marinatto resides, the Big East argues. The conference also claims it would be easier to produce witnesses and documents in Rhode Island.

WVU is trying to have the Rhode Island case tossed out, arguing it has sovereign immunity as an agency of the state of West Virginia and cannot be sued there. A hearing on that motion to dismiss is set for Dec. 16.

Lawyers for WVU said last week they want a resolution of both cases by June 30.