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Request by WVU to dismiss Big East suit denied

By Laura Crimaldi

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 27 2011 3:59 p.m. MST

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island judge on Tuesday denied a request by West Virginia University to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Big East Conference over the university's bid to make a quick exit for the Big 12.

Providence County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein rejected all of the university's arguments for dismissal.

The school had argued the Rhode Island courts did not have the authority to decide the matter and should defer to the courts in West Virginia, where the first civil suit was filed in this dispute.

The university also claimed it can't be sued in Rhode Island because it has sovereign immunity as an agency of the state of West Virginia and was not properly notified by the Big East of its lawsuit.

Court spokesman Craig Berke said the timetable for future legal proceedings in Rhode Island has not been determined.

The Big East's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an order that West Virginia stay in the conference for 27 months.

West Virginia accepted an invitation from the Big 12 in October and hopes to join in time for the 2012 football season.

Since then the school and Big East have each sued the other and filed motions to dismiss the other's lawsuits. A West Virginia judge earlier this month refused to dismiss a university lawsuit against the Big East.

A trial in the case filed in West Virginia is scheduled for June 25, which is five days before the university plans to leave the Big East.

The Big East countersued in Rhode Island on Nov. 4, four days after the university filed its suit, alleging that West Virginia helped craft the bylaws and cannot now ignore them. The Big East says an early exit by the university would do irreparable harm to the conference.

WVU has already sent half of the required $5 million exit fee to the Big East, and it contends that by accepting the down payment, the conference agreed to the immediate withdrawal.

WVU contends the conference violated its responsibility to members by failing to balance the number of football-playing and non-football schools. But the Big East says the bylaws have no such requirement.

Lawyers for the Big East did not immediately return messages on Tuesday.

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