Pitt’s official statement on the recent lawsuit against the Big East sheds more light:
“Since the University of Pittsburgh made the decision to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, we have done everything possible to move through a smooth transition with the Big East. Though we have been excluded from governance activities, meetings, decision-making and operational functions of the conference, we have been positive and respectful of the Big East.
“On September 26, 2011, when we notified the Big East that we were withdrawing from the conference, we paid the first half of the exit fee of $5 million. When the 2012-13 season is complete, we will have competed in the Big East for two seasons, thus providing ample time to re-form the Big East Conference for the future. Beginning with the 2013-14 season, the Big East will actually have four more football playing schools and more schools overall than when we gave notice that we were moving to a different conference.
“Although the Big East’s stated position is that we must stay through the 2013-14 season, the Big East acknowledged publicly that a discussion of our departure after the 2012-13 season was appropriate. A few weeks ago, Steve Pederson met with John Marinatto to begin the process to work toward an exit after this upcoming academic year. The Commissioner indicated that he was doing this with the authorization of the Chair of the Big East Presidents. However, attempts to contact the Big East in the following weeks to move the process forward have been unsuccessful, leading us to conclude that negotiations would not occur. Given the change in leadership of the Big East and the lack of response to our attempted contacts, on Friday, May 11, 2012, we filed a law suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, seeking resolution of this matter. We are confident in our position as stated in the complaint, but believe that this matter is best resolved between the parties. We have notified the Big East of this action, and continue to hope that our departure can be accommodated through private negotiations.”
Now, it's a little off-base that Pitt should be able to leave early because the Big East has more members. While that’s true, it doesn’t have any bearing on the exit date in the contract to which Pitt agreed. However, as the Panthers point out in the statement, Pitt has essentially been excluded from meetings and many conference activities. While they shouldn’t be involved in the decision-making for the future for obvious reasons, I’m not sure it’s exactly fair that as a member they are being left on the outside looking in when it comes to a lot of the happenings of the league.
Another key point is that Pitt has apparently tried to negotiate a buyout but hasn’t even been able to have any recent discussions about it. The Big East certainly has the right to not negotiate if it chooses, but John Marinatto’s recent comments before his resignation indicated that he would like to have those discussions.
For more on the lawsuit, stay tuned to this Storystream and visit SB Nation Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.