It appears the discussions of realignment in intercollegiate athletics are just beginning and, now, the legal showdown begins. Last week, the Western Athletic Conference (“WAC”) filed suit in state court in Colorado against the Mountain West Conference (“MWC”) and former members California State University, Fresno (“Fresno State”) and the University of Nevada (“Nevada”).
It has been widely reported that Boise State University (“Boise State”), Nevada and Fresno State will soon join the MWC. In accordance with WAC bylaws, member institutions seeking to withdraw from the WAC must submit proper written notice by July 1st of a given year. Specifically, Section 7 of WAC Bylaws states:
Any member may withdraw from the Conference by filing with each of the other Members and with the Commissioner of the Conference, on or before July 1 of any year, an official notice of withdrawal, in which event the withdrawal shall be effective the following June 30. Any withdrawing Member shall, however, play all approved athletic competitions scheduled with the other Members in accordance with the governing contracts unless such competitions are waived by the written consent of the parties affected.
It appears Boise State timely provided notice in accordance with Section 7 by providing notice on or before June 30, 2010; therefore, the effective date of Boise State’s exit from the WAC will be June 30, 2011. However, the WAC argues that Fresno State and Nevada failed to provide notice in accordance with Section 7 and provided notice of their intent to exit the WAC on August 20, 2010 and August 24, 2010, respectively. As a result, the WAC argues that Fresno State and Nevada are required to compete in the WAC during the 2011-2012 athletic seasons. On the other hand, it has been reported that Fresno State and Nevada intend on competing in the MWC during the 2011-2012 athletic seasons.
The WAC argues the departure of Fresno State and Nevada prior to June 30, 2012 will cause irreparable harm to the WAC and its member institutions. Specifically, the WAC argues that it will be irreparably harmed in the following ways:
As a result of the foregoing, the WAC seeks declaratory relief and injunctive relief. The WAC prays for:
It is of interest to note that the WAC is not seeking the reported $5 million separation fee from Fresno State and Nevada. Reports have indicated that WAC Commissioner Karl Benson has said that matters relating to the separation fees will be handled separately.