West Virginia is taking the Big East to divorce court

Dr. Saturday

New research suggests divorces may be less hostile than they used to be, which may be the case among married couples. But it certainly is not in conference realignment. When Texas A&M informed the Big 12 in September that it planned to move in with the SEC, the rest of the conference threatened lawsuits, narrowly avoided self-destruction and fired its commissioner.

And now that West Virginia is set on leaving the Big East for the Big 12, it's about to get really ugly:

West Virginia isn't waiting around to leave the Big East. Three days after announcing plans to join the Big 12, the school has filed a lawsuit seeking the ability to play in its new league in 2012.

According to CBSSports.com, Big East commissioner John Marinatto wrote to league presidents in an email that "we have been advised by West Virginia league council that the University is filing suit against the Big East Conference today (Monday) — presumably to get relief from the withdrawal provision contained in our bylaws."

In its lawsuit, West Virginia cited the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC and TCU to the Big 12 along with dissatisfaction with Marinatto as reasons for leaving.

You can read the entire lawsuit here, and it doesn't pull any punches: West Virginia outright accused Marinatto of mismanagement that has "resulted in the Big East football conference no longer being a viable and competitive football conference," thanks to his "lack of leadership [and] breach of fiduciary duties." It also complains about a "voting disparity between football and non-football schools."

All of which, according to the suit, is justification for a court to strike down a mandatory 27-month notification period that could keep the Mountaineers in the Big East until 2014 . In effect, they're arguing that failing to guarantee the conference's automatic bid to a BCS bowl (and the fat payday that comes with it) amounts to a breach of contract. TCU didn't violate that contract when it defected to the Big 12 earlier this month, because it had never formally joined the Big East. But Marinatto has said he plans to hold ACC-bound Pittsburgh and Syracuse for the full 27 months, and sounded determined last Friday to hold West Virginia to the same timeline. If it can't, the scramble to fill the new vacancy — or vacancies — in time to stage a 2012 football season will be on with just five members remaining in the fold and most of them hoping to abandon ship, too.

For its part, West Virginia sounded just as determined that it's going to be a full-fledged member of the Big 12 by next summer, at whatever the cost. (So far, the cost is $2.5 million, which WVU has already paid to cover the first half half of the $5 million exit fee.) Pitt and Syracuse will be watching, with one eye already on the ACC. Boise State and other expansion targets will be watching to gauge just what kind of league they're going to be getting themselves into — or whether they want to get into at all if the precious BCS status appears to be at risk. If the Big East can't legally hold its members in place with millions of dollars at stake in their departures and no one yet signed on to fill the gaps,

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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