Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported that Pitt has filed a lawsuit against their home of 30 years, the Big East Conference, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas this afternoon. The university released this statement shortly after:
"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."
The last time we looked at Pitt's early move to the ACC, then-Big East commissioner John Marinatto said that he would be willing to negotiate with Pitt and Syracuse to ensure an early departure from the Big East.
But what happened?
With Marinatto's resignation, Pitt had to be feeling a bit concerned about these negotiations. Perhaps the new commissioner would not be so willing to let the two schools leave early. Perhaps Pitt became worried of Boise State, and likely San Diego State as well, not following through on their promise to join the Big East in 2013. That could mean the Big East might force Pitt and Syracuse to stay through their contractually obligated time frame.
Regardless, it's the right move by the university. The Big East's bylaws have proven to be unenforceable (see: TCU and WVU). The Big East also cost Pitt thousands of dollars in potential home games this season (replacing UCF, TCU, and WVU with Temple, Gardner-Webb, and Youngstown State) and has proven to have ineffective leadership and spent the past round of conference realignment being reactive instead of proactive. In my opinion, Pitt probably would have gotten out in 2013 regardless of the lawsuit. But now it is all but guaranteed. Only 415 days until Pitt can say they are ACC members.