Pitt leaving for ACC in 2013

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 7:36 p.m.

Pitt will pay $7.5 million to leave the Big East and join the ACC next year.

Under an agreement announced Wednesday, Pitt will pay $2.5 million over the original $5 million exit fee and leave the conference effective July 1, 2013, 17 months ahead of the Big East's 27-month waiting period.

The announcement brings closure to Pitt's attempt to join the ACC for the 2013-14 academic year. Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said the lawsuit Pitt filed May 11 to leave the Big East early will be withdrawn.

“We always knew where we were going,” Pederson said. “We now know when we are going.”

The filing of the suit served its purpose, Pederson said.

“We can be reasonably certain the lawsuit became the catalyst for bringing this to a conclusion,” he said. “In the end, everybody benefited in the process. That helped get the conversation moving in a positive direction, and it was our hope all along to reach an agreement like this.”

Pitt and Syracuse announced in September their intentions to leave the Big East for the ACC, but Big East commissioner John Marinatto at the time said he wanted the schools to adhere to the waiting period.

After West Virginia announced plans to leave the Big East for the Big 12 this year and Texas Christian reneged on its promise to join the Big East, Pitt filed a lawsuit in Allegheny County Court to leave the conference next year.

In the lawsuit, which was moved to federal court, Pitt maintained the Big East waived its waiting period for departing members by not holding WVU and TCU to that standard.

Marinatto said he was open to discussing an early exit for Pitt and Syracuse, but he resigned May 7 and was replaced by interim commissioner Joe Bailey.

Pederson said he is comfortable paying an additional $2.5 million to facilitate an early exit, even though he had said the university had no plans to pay more than $5 million. Syracuse also will pay $7.5 million to leave the Big East next year under an agreement announced Monday.

“There is a point where there is a time for everybody to move forward,” Pederson said. “This seems to be the most reasonable conclusion. It is important for us to focus on the Big East this year for the sake of our seniors.”

The Big East has added eight new members to mitigate losing West Virginia, TCU, Pitt and Syracuse. Temple is joining for the 2012 season; Memphis, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Boise State and San Diego State next year; and Navy in 2015.

“This is another step for the Big East to take toward a very exciting future,” Bailey said. “With the addition of our eight new members, the Big East will be incredibly strong and vibrant.”

ACC commissioner John Swofford was pleased that his conference can expand to 14 schools next year.

“Today's announcement that Pitt will be joining the ACC on July 1, 2013, is terrific one,” he said. “It's exciting to know that both Pitt and Syracuse will become playing members in the ACC starting with the 2013-14 academic year. I'm pleased that both schools were able to finalize agreements with the Big East.

“The ACC has long enjoyed a rich tradition of balancing academics and athletics, and the addition of Pitt and Syracuse further strengthens this conference. Throughout this past year, we've been preparing to welcome both teams into our membership, and we look forward to the future of the ACC with these two schools as prominent members.”

Pederson said Pitt officials had hoped an exit agreement could be worked out with the Big East this summer. He said negotiations had been ongoing for some time. The parties got together again Monday, and the details of the agreement were finalized Wednesday.

“We felt like we had to get this moving,” he said. “There is a lot of planning that takes place from our standpoint and the ACC's standpoint.”

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

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