BOISE, Idaho (CN) - Boise State University claims in court that it does not owe a $5 million "exit fee" to The Big East Conference, which it never joined because the Big East has lost 11 of 14 members since the Broncos agreed to join it for football only.
Boise State signed a memorandum of understanding with the Big East on Dec. 6, 2011, under which the Broncos would join the conference on July 1, 2013 as a football-only member, according to the complaint in Ada County Court.
However, "Since the time the MOU as executed, the conference has lost eleven (11) of its (14) member institutions - West Virginia, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgetown, Providence, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John's, DePaul and Marquette,"
Boise State says in the complaint. "In addition, the conference has lost its 'automatic qualification' standing within the BCS system. Further, the name, corporate status, image rights and good will of the conference are in jeopardy due to the actual or anticipated departure of other conference members, present or former."
Accordingly, Boise State says, it gave the Big East written notice that it does not intend to join it, and revokes any obligations it may have occurred under the MOU. The claims that changes "in the nature and status of the conference have rendered performance by Boise State of any obligations under the MOU excused, as the essential purposes of the MOU are frustrated and performance by Boise State is impractical or impossible. Boise State's legal obligation and ability to perform have been interfered with, prevented, or excused.
"In addition, Boise State anticipates further breaches by the conference of the MOU including, but not limited to, material decrease in conference revenue, including media revenue."
So Boise State says it will stay in the Mountain West Conference.
This is that latest in a string of lawsuits involving numerous colleges and NCAA conferences, in reorganization scrambles for TV money.
San Diego State decided in January to stay in the Mountain West with Boise State. The Texas Christian Horned Frogs jumped from the Big East to the Big 12 in October 2011, prompting a June 2012 lawsuit by the Big East. That lawsuit was dropped after TCU agreed to pay a $5 million exit fee, according to ESPN.
The Big East was expected to sue Boise State, but the Broncos beat it to the punch.
"Boise State's interest in and intent to join the conference was premised upon the conference remaining substantially the same entity as it was at the time the MOU was signed," the complaint states. "Indeed, that the conference would maintain its status and nature was an implied term and obligation of the MOU."
Boise State has become a national football power, winning the Western Athletic Conference championship 8 of the 9 years it was a member. The Broncos took the Mountain West championship in 2012, their first season in the conference, and made The Associated Press list of Top 25 teams 10 times.
The Broncos have an impressive 84-8 (.913) record in the past seven seasons and finished in the Top 25 in six of those, according to a report by Forbes, which cited Boise State as a model for "organizational greatness."
Membership in the Big East was expected to give the Broncos a route toward a national championship. But the Big East's loss of its automatic qualifier for the Bowl Championship Series beginning with the 2014 put the kibosh on that route.
And the Big East has failed to attract any more schools west of the Mississippi, another provision of the agreement Boise State claims the conference did not live up to.
Boise State seeks declaratory judgment that it does not owe the $5 million exit fee, or any other fees to the Big East, rescission of contract, costs, and damages for breach of contract and breach of faith.
ESPN reported Wednesday that Syracuse University and its football program are at odds over whether the school or the football program should pay the $7.5 million exit fee the Big East levied on the Orangemen after they left the conference.
Boise State is represented by Steven Andersen with Andersen Banducci.
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