Aside from two pending lawsuits with the Big East, West Virginia has taken the first concrete step toward clearing its schedule to join the Big 12 in football this fall.
The school on Friday sent a letter to Florida State notifying the Seminoles that they were backing out of the scheduled Sept. 8 game between the schools in Tallahassee. The buyout for such a move is $500,000.
There's a catch, though. Sources indicate that the contract between WVU and FSU for games in 2012 in Tallahassee and 2013 in Morgantown also contains a clause that would relieve WVU of paying the penalty if Florida State manages to replace the Mountaineers with a comparable opponent.
FSU athletic director Randy Spetman expressed his disappointment over the move in a statement released by the school that makes it sound as if scheduling a comparable opponent will be difficult, but that's not necessarily the case.
"We were informed in writing late Friday afternoon of West Virginia University's intention to cancel its 2012 football game with Florida State University scheduled for Sept. 8 in Tallahassee,'' Spetman said. "We are disappointed for our coaches, players and fans that this game will not take place as originally scheduled. We now face the challenge of completing our 2012 schedule just seven months before the start of the season. We will work quickly and diligently to fill the hole on our schedule and will communicate with our season-ticket holders and fans as the process moves forward.''
Here's the catch, though. Assuming West Virginia jumps to the Big 12 and the Big East is not able to find a replacement for the Mountaineers for 2012 - which seems likely - there will be seven Big East teams looking for another game.
Whose decision it is to determine what constitutes a comparable opponent is not quite clear, but as BCS-level schools, perhaps all the remaining Big East schools constitute a comparable opponent.
The Seminoles already have one Big East team on their non-conference schedule, South Florida. Should the Big East schools be scrambling for replacements for West Virginia, it seems likely the first ones FSU - which will need a home game - would look at are the three who were supposed to play road games at WVU next season - Rutgers, Cincinnati and Syracuse. The Mountaineers were scheduled as home games for Pitt, Connecticut and Louisville.
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, contacted Saturday night, refused to comment on either the cancellation of the Florida State game or WVU's 2012 schedule because of the pending legal cases between West Virginia and the Big East.
The Mountaineers had to cancel one of the four non-conference games they had scheduled in order to be able to accommodate a Big 12 slate and stay at the 12-game limit. The Big 12 plays nine conference games and when the schedule was made WVU was scheduled to play eight games in the Big East, including one against TCU.