Chancellor Mark Nordenberg hopes to have Pitt headed to the ACC sooner rather than later (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
After news broke yesterday about Pitt's lawsuit, the university offered an official statement. Greg posted the whole thing yesterday, but I wanted to touch on a few things in it:
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.
Look, I get it. Pitt has no business in the long-term planning of the Big East. They also probably wouldn't even feel comfortable at discussions so I understand why they're not a part of most of the happenings of the conference. That said, the Big East is making a point of saying Pitt is a member until their contract runs out, so it's a bit contradictory. It's almost like, if Pitt can't make any decisions or take part in the conference's activities, then why not just let them leave?
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
Maybe I missed it or maybe I just flat out don't remember, but I don't have any recollection of Pitt making it public that they paid half of the exit fee. So, really, we're talking about $2.5 million? Don't get me wrong - I want Pitt to be careful with how they spend their money, but with half of it already paid and a huge ACC paycheck around the corner, I can't tell you how tempted I'd be to just cut that check and move on. The lawsuit could mean Pitt pays less, but with lawyer fees and wasted time, there's going to be an added cost. It's in Pitt's best interest to get it cleared up sooner rather than later.
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.
As a Pitt fan, I've got to say this makes no sense. Yes, there are more teams, but that has no bearing on the contract that Pitt, along with every other Big East member, signed. I get the point (which is that the Big East has essentially been 'made whole' with the additions. Still, that doesn't mean Pitt should be let out of a contract that they signed.
Then there's the last part, which is pretty important.
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.
According to Pitt, the Big East is the one playing hardball. In their own words, they've attempted to reach a deal with the Big East, but aren't getting calls returned. While that's not exactly being straightforward on the part of John Marinatto, who openly said he would be interested in negotiating, a few things here.
First, Marinatto was reportedly asked to resign, which he did, obviously. It's quite possible that he had other things on his mind, or more likely, didn't really care. But the thing of note is that, while he said he wanted to negotiate, the Big East was under no obligation to do so. I understand that Pitt has to have a basis for their lawsuit, but just because the Big East (or more specifically, John Marinatto) said they would negotiate, doesn't mean that they have any obligation to do that.
All of that said, Pitt's position was really about the only one they could have taken if they expected to leave early. This can only end one way, in my opinion, though - and that's with an early exit for Pitt.