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Big East settles with Pitt; Panthers headed to ACC a year early

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TWC News: Big East settles with Pitt; Panthers headed to ACC a year early
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For losing three members and one member-to-be in the span of about two months, the Big East made $40 million.

The rebuilding conference completed its business with outgoing members on Wednesday, coming to a settlement agreement that will allow Pittsburgh to leave after this season and dropping a lawsuit against TCU.

Pitt and the conference announced that the school will pay $7.5 million to join Syracuse in leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2013. The Big East reached a similar deal with Syracuse earlier this week.

The agreement with Pitt includes the $5 million the school already paid after it announced it was switching leagues last September. It also puts an end to an acrimonious split between the Big East and one of its longest standing members.

"We are anxious to compete in our final season in the Big East and look forward to an exciting future in the Atlantic Coast Conference,'' Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said in a statement.

The Big East later Wednesday night confirmed it had dropped its lawsuit seeking $5 million from TCU for reneging on a commitment to join the league and instead joining the Big 12. The conference said in a statement that "TCU has fully discharged its obligations to the Big East and the lawsuit is amicably settled without admission of liability of any party.''

Conditions of the settlement weren't released, but a person familiar with it told The Associated Press the Big East will receive $5 million from TCU. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was to be made on the agreement.

The Big East filed the suit last month in Washington, claiming TCU failed to pay the league the $5 million it agreed to when the school joined the Big 12.

TCU was never an official member of the Big East but accepted an invite in November 2010 to join in 2012. The Big East contended TCU agreed to pay $5 million if it didn't. TCU accepted an invite to the Big 12 in October and will start playing in the conference this year.

Add to the $20 million the Big East is getting from Pitt, Syracuse and TCU another $20 million that West Virginia agreed to pay the conference earlier this year when the school and the league settled their dueling lawsuits, and the Big East earned $40 million in departure fees.

The Big East is set to begin an odd season with Pitt and Syracuse as lame duck members, along with Temple, which was rushed back into the league to replace West Virginia on short notice.

Next year the new coast-to-coast Big East will be unveiled, with Boise State and San Diego State joining for football only, and Central Florida, Memphis, Houston and SMU coming on board for all sports. Navy is set to join for football only in 2015.

Pittsburgh initially agreed to abide by the 27-month waiting period required by Big East bylaws for a team exiting the conference, which would have kept the Panthers in the league until July 1, 2014. Things got ugly in May when the school filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania claiming the Big East waived its right to enforce a withdrawal notice after letting West Virginia leave early for the Big 12.

The Panthers argued because the Big East allowed West Virginia to depart immediately -- after paying a hefty $20 million exit fee -- the conference could no longer hold Pitt to the 27-month withdrawal notice. The goal wasn't to go to court but to force the Big East to get serious about settling.

"This is another step for the Big East to take toward a very exciting future,'' interim Big East commissioner Joe Bailey said in a statement announcing the settlement with Pittsburgh. "With the addition of our eight new members, the Big East will be incredibly strong and vibrant.''

The next two orders of business for the Big East are hiring a full-time commissioner and negotiating a new television contract _ a deal that will determine if all the conference's expansion moves can truly compensate for the losses.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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