FORT WORTH (CN) – The Big East Conference claims in Federal Court that Texas Christian University owes it a $5 million exit fee for reneging on joining the Big East and bolting for the Big 12 Conference.
In a complaint filed Monday in District of Columbia Federal Court, The Big East claims Fort Worth-based TCU agreed to join the Providence-based Big East on Nov. 29, 2010, and to compete as a full member of the conference starting in July this year.
The move was viewed by college football fans as mutually beneficial – TCU’s football program could compete for the Big East’s automatic berth in the lucrative Bowl Championship Series, while the basketball-rich but football-poor Big East would gain a highly ranked, respected football program.
TCU’s current conference, Colorado Springs-based Mountain West Conference, does not have an automatic berth in the BCS, making it difficult for the school to compete for a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
On Oct. 11, 2011, however, TCU reneged on the agreement and accepted an invitation to join the Irving, Texas-based Big 12, the complaint states.
The invitation from the Big 12 came 3 weeks after an announcement that Texas A&M University was leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
The Big East claims TCU has refused to pay the exit fee.
“At a press conference announcing that TCU would instead join the Big 12, TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte publicly acknowledged TCU’s contractual obligation to compensate the Big East for its refusal to join the conference,” the complaint stated.
The loss of TCU was only one of the Big East’s many problems. On Sept. 17, 2011, Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh announced their intention to leave the Big East for the Athletic Coast Conference; the ACC accepted them the next day.
Weeks later, Big East member West Virginia University accepted an invitation to join the Big 12.
The Big East has since sued West Virginia and Pitt, seeking to enforce conference bylaws that require 27 months notice before a school is allowed to leave, among other things.
The Big East seeks damages for breach of contract.
It is represented by Benjamin Block, with Covington & Burling, in Washington, D.C.