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Syracuse to pay $7.5 million, leave Big East next summer

| Monday, July 16, 2012, 12:40 p.m.
Pitt' Todd Thomas sacks Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib on Dec. 3, 2011, at Heinz Field. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
This March 2, 2010 file photo shows Syracuse basketball players, from left, Scoop Jardine, Arinze Onuaku, and Andy Rautins, celebrating with the Big East trophy after defeating St. John's 85-66 in an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y. The Big East has reached an agreement with Syracuse University, allowing the Orange to leave the league a year early for the Atlantic Coast Conference. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli, File)

Pitt's attempt to leave the Big East after the 2012-13 school year may have received a boost Monday after Syracuse negotiated a $7.5 million buyout, a leading sports legal authority said.

“This gives the negotiations a starting point,” said Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at the University of Vermont. “I don't think Pitt would be willing to pay $7.5 (million), but would they be willing to pay $6 (million)? (Pitt) could go to its board and say it saved $1.5 (million) from what Syracuse had to pay, and that could be framed as a victory.

“In some ways, this could accelerate the settlement process.”

Pitt and Syracuse announced plans in September to leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. At the time, the Big East was demanding a $5 million exit fee and a 27-month waiting period as conditions of their departure. The Big East said Monday that Syracuse was free to go after the 2012-13 academic year in exchange for $7.5 million.

Pitt filed a lawsuit against the Big East on May 11 in Allegheny County Court in an attempt to leave the conference next year. In the lawsuit, which has since been moved to federal court, Pitt maintained the Big East waived its waiting period for departing members by not holding West Virginia and Texas Christian to that standard when those schools announced last year they were leaving the conference.

Federal court documents indicate that Pitt and Big East officials have had discussions that could lead to a settlement, but no trial date has been set.

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson and Big East officials had no comments Monday.

Asked earlier this year if Pitt would pay more than $5 million to leave the conference, Pederson answered emphatically, “No.”

“Above everything else, we have to protect the interests of this institution,” he said.

McCann said he didn't think the Pitt lawsuit would make it to trial.

He estimated court costs could reach into the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” even if the two sides reach a settlement.

West Virginia paid $20 million to leave the Big East and join the Big 12 this year. TCU backed out of its agreement to join the Big East and opted for immediate Big 12 membership. The Big East sued TCU last month for its $5 million exit fee.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7997.

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