Non-binding mediation on the agenda for Big East, WVU

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As West Virginia and the Big East conference continue to battle over WVU’s desire to leave for the Big 12, a Rhode Island judge has ordered a non-binding mediation between the two sides, according to the Associated Press.

Providence County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein signed the order on Tuesday and the two sides are scheduled to meet with a third-party mediator and report for a status conference on Feb. 9. The Big East must also respond to West Virginia’s filings by Jan. 18.

The meeting is non-binding, which means topics discussed are informal in nature and confidential, and thus not allowed to be used during trial. The two sides reportedly have yet to meet, although each side has filed a motion to dismiss the other’s lawsuit against them. Both of those motions have been denied.

Additionally, the Big East has filed an injunction against WVU to keep them in the conference. If both sides are unable to reach an agreement with the mediation, the Big East’s motion for the injunction will be heard on April 11th.

West Virginia has maintained that they will be a member of the Big 12 starting July 1, 2012, despite Big East bylaws that state the institution must wait 27 months before exiting the conference.

A trial for WVU’s lawsuit had been tentatively set for June 25. The initial feeling was that the two sides would eventually settle out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. However, the Big East has stood by its belief that it will keep WVU to the bylaws that the school reaffirmed with the rest of the conference on Oct. 17, two weeks before WVU filed its lawsuit against the conference.

The mediation could resolve that, but the emphasis is on “could.”

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.