The Western Athletic Conference has notified recent breakaway members Fresno State and Nevada and the Mountain West Conference of a lawsuit aimed at forcing the renegade schools to follow through on obligations to compete in the WAC for the 2011-’12 school year.
The suit was to have been filed in a Colorado court. The nine-member WAC is incorporated in Colorado, where both it and the MWC are headquartered.
A spokesman for University of Hawaii-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw referred questions to WAC Commissioner Karl Benson. Benson did not return phone calls or e-mails last night but his office has announced a teleconference for this morning "to address the departure date of Fresno State and Nevada."
Meanwhile, Fresno State President John Welty said through a spokeswoman: "We’ve been advised by the WAC that it has initiated legal action. That is unfortunate. We believe that all the issues can be resolved through discussion rather than through costly legal proceedings."
University of Nevada president Milton Glick told Reno TV station KRNV, "I am disappointed. It is unfortunate that this matter has moved to litigation before any discussions between the parties were undertaken. We have been very public about our desire to resolve these matters directly with the Western Athletic Conference and to do so as expeditiously as possible. At this point, our university legal counsel is in contact with the WAC’s attorney."
WAC policy requires schools to declare their intention to leave by July 1 of the year previous to their withdrawal. But Fresno State and Nevada announced their departures on Aug. 18 and have subsequently said they would not compete in the WAC in 2011-’12.
Benson has said an early withdrawal by the two would place a scheduling hardship on the six remaining schools, leaving them scant time in which to fill the pukas on their schedule.
Boise State announced it is departing the WAC for the MWC, where it plans to compete in 2011-’12, but declared its intention in June.
Also a matter of contention is whether Fresno State and Nevada will each pay a $5 million withdrawal fee after having agreed to a so-called solidarity pact less than a week before their announced withdrawal.