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Pederson's patience waning with Big East situation

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson wants to walk away from the Big East amicably.

Nonetheless, with his patience wearing thin while trying to leave the conference for the ACC, Pederson didn't rule out just walking away.

"You have to protect the interests of this institution," he said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in his office at Petersen Events Center, Pederson said Pitt officials could consider adopting West Virginia's defiant approach to its impending departure to the Big 12. West Virginia has said it will leave the Big East this year — before the mandated 27-month waiting period — and went to court in an attempt to make it happen.

After failing to reach a court settlement, West Virginia and Big East officials are negotiating a buyout that could be worth as much as $20 million, CBSSports.com reported yesterday. The normal exit fee is $5 million.

"The world is much different from the day (Sept. 18) we announced we are going to the ACC," Pederson said. "Two have left (Pitt and Syracuse), one just left (TCU), and the other (West Virginia) is indicating (it is) going to leave.

"We are trying to evaluate where you are in the future and where the (Big East) is going in the future and make a reasonable decision."

Pitt and Syracuse announced the same day that they planned to leave the conference. A month later, West Virginia said it also was leaving.

Pitt is caught in the middle, stuck in the Big East without a 2012 schedule in any sport and without a product to sell. And Pederson appeared to be tired of waiting for a resolution.

"We are really trying to do this the best possible way we can," Pederson said. "We have tried to be considerate to everybody. We haven't had that kind of discussion (leaving early), but we are going to keep seeing what happens here."

Asked if Pitt would consider paying more than the required $5 million to leave early, Pederson answered with a sharp, "No."

Since Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia announced they would leave, the Big East has broadened its footprint to stretch from coast to coast.

Yesterday, it welcomed Memphis to join eventual new members San Diego State, Boise State, Houston, SMU, Central Florida and Navy. None are scheduled to join before 2013. When Navy officially enters in 2015, the Big East will have 12 football-playing members — it competed with eight last year — and commissioner John Marinatto will have the conference championship game he covets.

During a conference call yesterday, Marinatto said the Big East won't allow Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia to leave before July 1, 2014. He refused to discuss the matter further, citing current litigation.

Meanwhile, the Big East, Big 12 and ACC have not yet released their fall football schedules, even though they are normally made public in February. CBSSports.com reported the Big 12 has given its schedule, with West Virginia on it, to its television partners and plans to make it public this week.

Pederson said the ACC has imposed no deadline on Pitt.

"There will be a day where everyone has to say, 'Here's the schedule. Here's what we are doing,'" he said. "It seems like we haven't reached the drop-dead (date) yet. But there will have to be one at some point."

Notes: Pederson said he is close to finding a fifth nonconference football opponent to replace TCU, which reneged on its agreement to join the Big East. When TCU had committed to the conference, Pitt was forced to buy its way out of a game against Central Florida to make room on its schedule. ... Pitt received the $1 million buyout from Arizona State for hiring away former coach Todd Graham, Pederson said. Pederson said he has not spoken to Graham or Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love since Graham resigned Dec. 13. ... Pitt guard Chris Jacobson was given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after sustaining his second season-ending knee injury last season.

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