You know the punchline, and apparently it even applies to sports. In this case the ex-official is Donna Shalala, now the president of the University of Miami. Currently, Miami is a member of the Big East athletic conference. However, Miami is about to defect to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is going to do so notwithstanding Shalala’s prior statement “in the strongest terms possible” that “the University of Miami is in the Big East Conference and has no interest in leaving it.” The Washington Post recounts Shalala’s dissembling in this report on a lawsuit filed by the Big East to prevent Miami’s defection, along with the defection of Syracuse and Boston College, the two schools Miami is bringing with it. Shalala’s assurances feature prominently in the legal complaint.
My prejudice is against having courts become involved in issues like this one. However, I can see why the Big East schools are upset. The Big East started out as a basketball conference. After Miami joined, it began emphasizing football too, and some of its members say they relied on assurances like the ones Shalala gave when they invested huge amounts of money in new football facilities. For example, the University of Connecticut, a public institution, recently spent more than $90 million of public money on a football stadium. It almost certainly would not have done this if it had expected football powers Miami and Syracuse to leave.
As the Post explains, there’s virtually no chance that a judge will order Miami. Syracuse, and Boston College to remain in the Big East. But it’s conceivable that a judge might award financial damages.
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