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Rutgers Sues Big East for Millions

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CN) - Rutgers sued the Big East Conference, fighting its $10 million fee to withdraw from the conference, and claiming the Big East owes it millions after failing to charge other schools for leaving the sports league.

Rutgers sued the Big East in Middlesex County Court.

The Big East's unique setup, with eight basketball-only and eight-football only schools, has led to instability in the past decade. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Texas Christian and Notre Dame all left the conference during that time and Rutgers announced on Nov. 20 that it is jumping to the Big 10.

The Big East's bylaws originally stated that any departing team has to give the conference 27 months notice and $5 million, the complaint states.

Rutgers claims the Big East upped the fee to $10 million at its Presidents' Meeting on Nov. 12-13 this year.

"Upon information and belief, the new withdrawal fee of $10 million arbitrarily applies to some, but not all, of the Big East football schools, and the effect is to penalize certain members if they seek to withdraw," the complaint states.

Rutgers claims that none of the other schools that left the conference were held to the 27-month/$5 million fee standard.

"Moreover, the Big East's excusal of noncompliance by Syracuse, Pittsburgh, TCU, and WVU with the 27 month notice provision of the Bylaws constitutes a waiver of this same provision with respect to Rutgers," the complaint states.

"The court should accordingly enter an order declaring the Bylaws to be void and of no effect as between the parties, permitting Rutgers to withdraw from The Big East prior to July 1, 2015, or in alternative, declaring that The Big East has waived Rutgers' obligation to abide by the 27 months notice provision and the requirement of a withdrawal fee."

Rutgers claims the conference breached its duty by not collecting $39.5 million in withdrawal fees from Syracuse, Pittsburgh, TCU and WVU, and an undetermined amount from Notre Dame. It claims that that money was to be split among the remaining conference members.

Rutgers adds that The Big East has turned a blind eye to its claims that it lost $1.3 million from losing from its schedule a home football game against TCU, due to that school's departure from the conference.

Rutgers asked the court to declare that The Big East's withdrawal requirements and fees are void, to prohibit the conference from imposing the requirements and declare that the conference breached it duty to Rutgers and other members by not collecting the fees from other schools that have left.

Rutgers is represented by David Feld, with Lowenstein Sandler of Roseland, N.J.

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