By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia University and the Big East Conference reached an out-of-court settlement on their differences and signed the document Tuesday morning, free the way for the Mountaineers to switch their conference affiliation to the Big 12 for the 2012 season.
WVU’s first Big 12 football game will be at home against Baylor on Sept. 29. The first Big 12 road game, fittingly, is at Texas on Oct. 6. All WVU’s Big 12 games are played on Saturdays. The season opens on Sept. 1 with a home game against Marshall and play Maryland at Mylan Puskar Stadium on Sept.22.
“Our membership in the Big 12 offers WVU significant advantages,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Oliver Luck. “The Big 12 is a strong and vibrant conference academically and athletically. We look forward to the potential academic and athletic partnerships and financial opportunities that membership in the Big 12 offers."
While the agreement bars discussions of the details, the Big East will receive the equivalent to $20 million cash. A total of $11 million of that will come from the Mountaineers, who already have paid $2.5 million. They are expected to allow the Big East to maintain the $8 million due the school this year as its payment for participation in the Big East.
Perhaps the key concession by WVU was, according to a statement by Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, to allow the conference to “terminate” the school’s membership while the court in Monongalia County will uphold the legality of the Big East’s bylaws.
"West Virginia University has acknowledged and agreed that the Court in Monongalia County, West Virginia, will enter a judgment that the Big East Conference bylaws are valid and enforceable, and will dismiss with prejudice all of West Virginia's claims against the Conference," Marinatto said in a statement.
This allows the Big East to extract some form of payment for the early departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the conference. They are expected to leave after next season.
No state or taxpayer funds, tuition or academic support monies will be used to pay WVU’s settlement. Any settlement funding transferred, according to Luck, will come from private sources and independently generated athletic revenues.
WVU President Jim Clements stressed the importance of the University’s future direction.
We are in great company in the Big 12, joining a group of world-class research universities – many of them large public land-grant flagship institutions like WVU,” Clements said. “These schools have quality academics, research, athletic programs, winning traditions and loyal, passionate fans.”
He added, “Our partnership with the Big 12 is an investment in WVU's future. We're looking forward to the tremendous opportunities it presents – all across our university."
Luck said of the settlement: “This closes a chapter and opens a new one filled with exciting possibilities for WVU’s future. I’ve heard from Mountaineer fans across the country who have made it very clear that they are proud and honored to be heading into the Big 12.”
Clements and Luck thanked West Virginia fans everywhere, as well as the governor, United States senators and representatives, the attorney general, state senators and delegates for their support these past few months.
WVU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 in late October.