Maryland Lawsuit Alleges ACC Broke Rules On Exit Fees

12:27 PM, Jan 14, 2014   |    comments
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Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Sports

The state of Maryland has filed a $156.8 million counter-claim against the Atlantic Coast Conference, alleging the conference broke its own rules in an effort to inflate the exit fee it says the University of Maryland must pay for leaving to join the Big Ten Conference.

The Maryland Attorney General's Office also alleges that after Maryland announced its planned move, representatives of Wake Forest and the University of Pittsburgh "each contacted a Big Ten university in an attempt by the ACC to recruit at least two Big Ten schools to leave the Big Ten and join the ACC."

These actions, according to Maryland, are among a series of moves by the ACC that constitute "illegal, retaliatory, and anti-competitive conduct (that) threatens irreparable harm to Maryland and Maryland's student-athletes, student and alumni fan base, faculty, athletic competitiveness and reputation."

The Maryland AG also is seeking punitive damages against the ACC in an amount to be specified at trial.

The claim was filed late Monday in a North Carolina state court and stems from a lawsuit the ACC filed in November 2012, shortly after Maryland announced its intent to leave the ACC for the Big Ten in 2014.

The ACC claims that under an agreement made by the ACC's member schools in September 2012 - an agreement Maryland voted against - Maryland owes a $52.2 million exit fee. Maryland says the ACC's effort to apply the new provision immediately is in violation of ACC rules and was intended to both punish the school and deter other conference members from leaving.

The ACC's lawsuit against Maryland began shortly after the school announced it was leaving the conference.

The ACC filed a complaint in which it said Maryland President Wallace D. Loh "has distanced Maryland publicly from any commitment to pay the withdrawal payment ... referred to the withdrawal payment as 'illegal' and indicated his contention that it is unenforceable."

The ACC complaint also said Loh has "stated publicly regarding the withdrawal payment that it raises issues "for a court to decide" and that "when asked directly" about whether Maryland intends to make the payment "has refused to provide assurance that ... Maryland will do so and had made it clear that ... Maryland does not intend to pay the amount provided by the ACC's Constitution."

Maryland counter-sued in a Maryland state court in January 2013, but in June a judge there ruled that suit should be stayed pending the outcome of the North Carolina proceeding.

Maryland attempted to have the North Carolina case dismissed, but in November a North Carolina state appellate court unanimously denied that motion. In its counter-claim filed Monday, the state of Maryland continues to maintain that the North Carolina court has no jurisdiction in the case.

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