Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WAC v. Mountain West Conference

ESPN reported yesterday that the Western Athletic Conference has initiated a lawsuit against the Mountain West Conference, California State University-Fresno, and the University of Nevada. The lawsuit relates to this summer's announcement that the two schools were leaving the WAC to join the Mountain West. Fresno State and Nevada both seek to enter the Mountain West starting with the 2011-12 school year. Meanwhile, the WAC contends that the schools are contractually obligated to remain in their current conference until the start of the 2012-13 year.

Specifically, under the WAC's bylaws, schools are supposed to notify the conference by July 1st if they intend to depart the conference the following summer. Both Fresno State and Nevada announced their intended departure on August 18th, but have indicated they would nevertheless like to join their new conference beginning in July 2011. The WAC contends that it would be irreparably harmed if the schools were permitted to leave before July 2012. As stated by WAC Commission Karl Benson:

"We’ve declared pretty consistently that the football schedule for 2011 would be drastically challenging for the six remaining members if they lost two footballs games in the 2011 season less than a year away," Benson said Tuesday. "We also have obligations and contracts with our bowl partners that would be damaged without Fresno State and Nevada in the WAC in 2011. A contract with our television partner that would be affected. WAC basketball tournament implications, BCS implications, there’s a myriad of reasons why Fresno State and Nevada need to fulfill their obligations."
Indeed, if Fresno State and Nevada are permitted to leave the conference in 2011, the remaining members of the WAC will likely have a difficult time replacing games against the two schools on their 2011 football schedules, given the current trend of scheduling non-conference college football games years in advance (as discussed in my forthcoming law review article).

The WAC filed the suit in Colorado state court, and ultimately asks that the court issue an injunction requiring the two schools to remain in the WAC through the 2011-12 school year. A copy of the complaint is available here.