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West Virginia Sues to Leave Big East for Big 12 Conference

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 03, 2011 9:46 AM

West Virginia University has sued, seeking an immediate transfer from the Big East to the Big 12 conference.

West Virginia hopes to become a member of the Big 12 before the 2012 football season.

Unfortunately, the Big East's bylaws may not allow West Virginia to break off so easily.

There's a provision that requires schools give 27 months notice before withdrawal from the conference.

The university hopes to have the bylaws declared invalid so that they can quit without having to wait two or more years. It plans to get its way by proving to the court that the Big East has breached its fiduciary duties.

Specifically, they claim that:

  1. There was a material breach because the Big East failed to keep the conference viable.
  2. Performance under the contract would be too burdensome.
  3. The purpose of entering into the agreement with the Big East no longer exists: the agreement has become substantially frustrated.

Under common law, there are some ways in which two parties can be legally excused from performing their end of the contract. One such method is what West Virginia alleges: that the purpose of the contract has been frustrated.

In these types of cases, performance of the contract is still possible. But the reason for making the contract in the first place has been "frustrated" away by circumstances that aren't the fault of either side.

Will West Virginia prevail on this claim? It's unclear. Though it seems the university is very eager to move from the Big East to the Big 12. West Virginia also alleges that the Big East has accepted their immediate withdrawal by taking a $2.5 million down payment on its $5 million exit fee.

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