The Big East Conference filed a lawsuit (PDF) yesterday against Texas Christian University, accusing the school of refusing to pay an agreed-upon fee after deciding to join a different intercollegiate athletic conference.
The Big East, a District of Columbia-incorporated non-profit that is headquartered in Providence, R.I., filed the $5 million breach of contract complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The group is being represented by Covington & Burling partner Benjamin Block.
In a statement, the university said that "administrators were surprised by this lawsuit and believe it is premature. The University is hopeful for an amicable resolution of this matter."
According to the lawsuit, the Big East first began discussing the university’s possible membership in the conference in the fall of 2010. In November of that year, the two entered into an agreement that the conference would formally invite the university to join on July 1, 2012.
As part of the agreement, the university agreed that if it decided to decline the conference invitation, “a reasonable estimate of the Conference’s damages would be $5,000,000,” according to the complaint. Over the next year, although the university wasn’t a formal member, officials attended conference meetings and were “kept apprised” of what was going on in the conference.
But in October 2011, according the complaint, the university announced that it would be joining the Big 12 conference instead, as of July 1, 2012. The Big East, in its complaint, claimed that at the press conference announcing the decision, a TCU official – Athletic Director Chris Del Conte – acknowledged that the school would owe damages to the Big East.
Since then, the Big East alleged that the university has refused to pay. A spokesman for the Big East declined to comment beyond the complaint.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Colleen Collar-Kotelly.