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Pulling plug on Florida State game might not cost WVU

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.That West Virginia chose the Florida State game to cancel is not surprising. The Mountaineers also have non-conference games with Marshall, James Madison and Maryland next season, but Marshall is a home game that will bring in more than $1 million, James Madison is a special event game in Washington with a reported $1 million buyout, and canceling Maryland would jeopardize a series that still has at least five years remaining.From a competitive aspect, it was also logical to cancel Florida State, given that WVU's 2012 schedule will also include the likes of regular or recent Top 25 opponents Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU and Baylor, among others.Despite the two ongoing lawsuits with the Big East over a 27-month waiting period to leave the conference, WVU officials have steadfastly insisted that the Mountaineers would play in the Big 12 beginning this fall. Luck and school president James Clements have assured the Big 12 that the move will be made.Canceling the Florida State game in 2012 does not necessarily mean the 2013 game will be called off, although that too seems likely. Florida State seems unlikely to play that game without a return visit. The buyout for the 2013 game would be $300,000. That was also the original buyout for the 2012 game, but it increased to $500,000 because the cancellation was made within a year of the game.The 2013 game, though, could be called off by mutual agreement. If Pitt and Syracuse make the jump to the ACC in 2013, Florida State might need to free up a spot on its schedule if the ACC goes to a nine-game schedule.
The irony of canceling the game because of a change in conference affiliation by WVU is that the series between West Virginia and the Seminoles was brought about as reparations by the ACC to the Big East following the raid that took Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College from the Big East. The ACC, as part of a court settlement over that matter, agreed to schedule home-and-home games between its schools and Big East schools. West Virginia drew Florida State.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or or follow him at  
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