West Virginia's $20 million settlement with Big East is complicated

February 16, 2012 12:01 am

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The structure of West Virginia's $20 million settlement with the Big East Conference is detailed in documents obtained from the university Wednesday by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through an open records request.

The settlement includes $2.5 million that West Virginia paid the conference in October when the university announced its intention to leave the Big East and join the Big 12 Conference. That money was partial payment of an exit fee. The rest of the compensation includes a "settlement payment" of $8.5 million, due Friday, and all the university's 2011-12 share of Big East revenue -- mostly from the sale of broadcast rights to football and basketball games -- forecast at $9 million.

The settlement agreement is 25 pages long and includes a document entitled "Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Big 12 Transition Fund."

That part of the document reveals a $10 million deal between the university and the West Virginia University Foundation, Inc., a private entity which raises funds for the university's use. The foundation is giving West Virginia $10 million, half of which will be forgiven. The remaining half is to be paid back with interest.

What the document does not say, but has been confirmed by a source with knowledge of the litigation between the Big East and West Virginia, is that the foundation money was put up by the Big 12.

Essentially, West Virginia considers the settlement a victory, sources said, because it was unlikely the university would have seen the estimated $9 million in Big East revenue once the school and conference sued each other.

According to the documents, the university, at the end of the fiscal year in June, will have the opportunity to review the Big East revenue share due each conference member. It is conceivable that West Virginia could get money back from the Big East if "revenue distribution is greater than the forecasted amount" of $9 million. West Virginia could owe the Big East more money if the revenue share turns out to be less than $9 million.

Other provisions include:

• West Virginia forfeits the rights to any revenue distribution from the league after June 30, including money that could come from withdrawal fees paid by Pitt and Syracuse -- both leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference -- or cancellation fees that might be paid by any schools that commit to join the Big East but fail to fulfill the commitment.

• West Virginia must use "reasonable best efforts" to help Pitt and Syracuse schedule games with Big 12 opponents for the 2012-13 season if the schools had made such a request by Feb. 15.

A Pitt spokesman said Wednesday that the university had not received documentation of the West Virginia settlement from the Big East.

• West Virginia is bound to a non-disparity clause, meaning that both parties agreed not to make "disparaging comments about any other party."

First Published 2012-02-15 23:37:23

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