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Big East Countersues West Virginia

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(Rob Carr/Getty Images Sports)

(Rob Carr/Getty Images Sports)

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JOHN RABY, AP Sports Writer

The Big East filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against West Virginia on Friday, four days after the university sued the conference in a bid to make a quick exit for the Big 12.

The conference said the lawsuit was filed Friday in Rhode Island Superior Court seeking unspecified damages along with an order requiring West Virginia to stay put for 27 months in compliance with Big East bylaws.

The latest lawsuit underscores the Big East’s position “that it will vigorously pursue the enforcement of its rights and West Virginia University’s obligations,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement.

Marinatto noted West Virginia helped construct the bylaws and formally agreed to them.

A West Virginia athletics spokesman referred questions to university attorneys. A message left at WVU’s Office of the General Counsel wasn’t immediately returned.

West Virginia accepted an invitation from the Big 12 last week and wants to join for the 2012 season. The university filed a lawsuit Monday in Monongalia County Circuit Court. It seeks to declare the Big East bylaws invalid, claiming the conference breached its fiduciary duty to West Virginia by failing to maintain a balance between football-playing and non-football members.

No responses have been filed in West Virginia to the university’s lawsuit, according to the court clerk’s office.

The Big East wants to push West Virginia’s exit back to July 1, 2014.

West Virginia has already sent half of the required $5 million exit fee to the Big East. The university alleged that by accepting the down payment on the exit fee, the Big East agreed to West Virginia’s immediate withdrawal.

On Tuesday, Big East presidents meeting in Philadelphia agreed on a plan to add more teams to a conference also hit by the defections of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which are leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. To offset those losses, the league is looking to add Boise State, Navy and Air Force for football only, and SMU, Houston and Central Florida for all sports.

The Idaho State Board of Education on Thursday gave Boise State permission to pursue membership with the Big East for the 2013 season. Boise State has yet to receive a formal invitation, but Boise State President Bob Kustra told trustees he expects one to come in the next few days.

     (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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