Last Thursday, it was reported that Nevada sent a letter to the WAC informing them of their decision to leave for the Mountain West Conference following the 2010-2011 school year. It was subsequently learned that Fresno State had sent essentially the same later.
Today, the conference said not so fast my friends.
In a press release issued by the WAC, commissioner Karl Benson made it very clear that the league fully expects the two schools to both remain in the conference through the 2011-2012 school year and pay a $5 million penalty — each — for leaving the conference. Here’s the full text of the conference’s release.
Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson announced today that Fresno State and the University of Nevada must pay $5 million each for failing to abide to a corporate resolution they both agreed to earlier this month that called for both to remain members of the WAC through June 30, 2016. Fresno State and Nevada announced on August 18 that they would join the Mountain West Conference. Both schools were notified on August 27 with a “demand for payment” letter and have 60 days from that date to make payment. The two schools are also required to compete in the WAC during the 2010-11 season and the 2011-12 season as neither school announced their decision to withdraw from the WAC prior to the June 30 deadline as required by WAC Bylaws. Both schools were also notified of this on August 27.
“The WAC fully expects to receive the $5 million from both Fresno State and Nevada and will take legal recourse if necessary to obtain the money,” said Benson. “As for the termination date, WAC Bylaws make it very clear that Fresno State and Nevada must remain in the WAC through the 2011-12 season unless the WAC authorizes an ‘early out.’ Fresno State and Nevada leaving the WAC following the 2010-11 season would cause irreparable financial harm to the remaining WAC members in terms of football scheduling and potential loss of revenue from television and bowl games. The damages that Hawai’i, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State would incur could exceed as much as $2 million per school.”
Nevada has previously claimed they never actually signed the “corporate resolution” and are thus not subject to the penalty. It’s highly doubtful either school would pay the multi-million dollar penalty before the Oct. 26 deadline.
It goes without saying that the WAC is attempting to keep the two school in the conference as long as possible in order to find suitable replacements, something that’s likely necessary in order to hold on to any hope of getting BYU to move their non-football sports to the conference. Given the stance of the two sides, this get even uglier in very short order.