I was at Greentree last night waiting for the championship of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club's Summer League Pro Am when I got the presser on my phone about Pitt getting out of the Big East early. Needless to say, word spread pretty quickly around the place.
Pitt leaving early for the ACC was really one of the worst kept secrets out there. It seemed like a done deal when the Panthers decided to make the move to the conference last year, but when Syracuse announced they were jumping ship a few days ago, the only thing left was to negotiate a fee.
So the fact that this happened surprised no one. But how quickly it did? Yeah, that was a bit of a shock.
Syracuse just got out this week and with the Big East (never known for their ability to get things done all that quickly) working here, I figured this would drag on a bit. Throw in Pitt's lawsuit against the conference and you had the makings for a real mess.
Pitt will reportedly pay $7.5 million to get out, the same amount Syracuse did. That makes sense on a lot of levels and, as a fan, I'm glad it happened. I still maintain that the school could have gotten off easier if they really wanted to drag things out, but as soon as Syracuse managed to break free, you could practically feel the collective breath of the ACC breathing down Pitt's necks. I have little doubt that the conference put a little bit indirect (or even direct) pressure on the Panthers to cut ties as well.
I maintain (still) that Pitt could have gotten off a bit cheaper if they really wanted to. As I've declared all along, there was no way the Big East would let the Panthers hang around for the duration of the 27-month exit period and get off without paying an early exit fee. The Big East is still the jilted bride, but at least now they have a few bucks in their pocket as a consolation prize. Not sure what will happen to the money paid by Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia, but you're talking about nearly $40 million, boys and girls. That's a nice chunk of change.
The way I see it, Pitt could have forced the conference's hand, insisting they'll stay the extra year unless the fee was reduced, but no one really wanted that. And at the end of the day, the $7.5 million is really just chalked up to the cost of doing business.
So, 2013 it is.
There's a bit more to digest here, though. Pitt still has some unfinished business.
Shortly after news broke, Steve Pederson was quick to remind fans there was still work to do:
It is important that we also remember that for our seniors, 2012-13 will be the most important season of their careers. We will do everything possible to make sure this final season in the Big East, and their final season, is a great success. It will be a delicate balance, but we need to focus our commitment to our student-athletes on Big East success this season prior to celebrating the move to the ACC.
I'll do him one better - this is a huge year for fans as well. Pitt floundered in the Big East and started to find some consistent success under Walt Harris. Dave Wannstedt had some success as well, but even with strong recruiting classes, Pitt has never really lived up to expectations. The program has one BCS appearance to show for their labors ... and that was via winning a tie-breaker scenario.
Pitt has one shot at this. One last chance to go out, punch the conference in their collective mouths and storm off as champion. They can take the title and, a la CM Punk, ride off into the sunset with a prized possession - the conference's BCS berth. Here's Pitt's chance to play the heel and give fans a BCS bowl before they head to the ACC.
The Panthers aren't the favorites in the Big East - we all know that. But that doesn't change the fact that the conference is utterly winnable and Pitt certainly should have a chance at it.
Will it happen? Well, there's a first time for everything, right?