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Pitt Sues Big East: Panthers Play 'Hardball' (Or, Maybe Softball) With Lawsuit

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and Athletic Director Steve Pederson (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and Athletic Director Steve Pederson (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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After a bit of a dead period, this has been one of the bigger offseason weeks in recent memory ... well, other than the coaching carousel over the past few years.

Penn State's new coach, Bill O'Brien, kicked things off by talking about renewing the Pitt-Penn State rivalry. John Marinatto followed that up by resigning from his position as commissioner of the Big East. Paul Chryst picked up his fifth commit of 2013. Then there was word that Pitt could be landing former Rutgers/Arizona quarterback Tom Savage. And Pitt's new conference, the ACC, just landed a big new deal with ESPN.

Heck, that's a big month, let alone week. Add one more to that list with the news that Pitt is suing the Big East.

Now, when you think 'lawsuit', you generally think of guys in suits burning through taxpayer money in court before a judge who may or may not care about football. That's not likely to be the scene that plays out as this thing will probably be settled out of court before it gets to that point.

So, okay, let's take a look at this. On what basis is Pitt suing?

Scheduling woes and lost revenue.

That's according to the Post-Gazette, anyway:

The University of Pittsburgh filed suit against The Big East Conference in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas this afternoon for allowing two opponents -- 2011 Rose Bowl winner Texas Christian University and 2012 Orange Bowl winner West Virginia University -- to withdraw early and without penalty from the conference.

Conference officials' decision, the complaint states, has cost the University of Pittsburgh lost ticket sales, buyout fees and game fees for two valuable home football games those opponents scheduled, then abandoned, leaving Pitt scrambling to find replacements at additional cost.

First of all, it's news to me if West Virginia left without penalty. If I recall, they paid somewhere in the neighborhood of a bajillion dollars to leave early. But I digress.

Now look - even if you're the most staunch defender of the Big East and are a diehard anti Pitt fan, it's hard to argue there's no merit for the lawsuit according to those terms. West Virginia was a home date and assuming TCU was, those were two contests that could have been sellouts or near sellouts. And who did Pitt replace them with?

First there was Gardner-Webb and then later came Temple with news that they had joined the conference.

There's a very good chance that the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia alone would have accounted for more ticket sales than both of those games combined. So, it's clearly a no-brainer that Pitt lost money on the trade.

Here's the thing - conference teams aren't going to be all that thrilled. They already aren't big fans of Pitt and Syracuse for leaving town. But they surely know that this is just a strategic move to leave after next season. Does Pitt have a beef? Sure. But conference teams have a beef with them (even if they did provide notice of potentially leaving months before it happened) as well.

The thing is, don't look for this to end up in court. Neither side really wants to pay money or invest the time in a lawsuit. Know why? Because nobody likes to do that. Pitt is using this as some sort of leverage to either pay nothing to leave early (fat chance, in my opinion) or to pay less. The bet here is still that Pitt leaves after the 2012-13 season and pays a bit of money to do so. I've written this ad nauseum, but the Big East surely wants to get something out of Pitt financially and allowing them to leave early will mean that happens.

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