A North Carolina appeals court has rejected Maryland’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the ACC, which is seeking to collect a $52 million exit fee from the school as it departs for the Big Ten.
The decision, made by three judges on a Court of Appeals panel and reported Tuesday by the Associated Press, was unanimous, meaning “Maryland has no automatic right to a state Supreme Court appeal. But the higher state court could choose to hear and appeal.”
Tuesday’s ruling is the latest development in a drawn-out legal process that began last November when Maryland announced its move to the Big Ten and figures to continue until next summer, when the school officially leaves the ACC after more than 50 years in the league.
The ACC sued Maryland last November, asking a Greensboro, N.C., court to enforce the exit fee, calculated at three times the conference’s total operating budget. Maryland then counter-sued the ACC in Maryland last January, based primarily on the opinion that such a high exit fee — the largest ever levied on a school for switching conferences — was punitive and illegal. A judge in Maryland put the school’s lawsuit against the ACC on hold until the North Carolina case is resolved.
Though Maryland President Wallace D. Loh voted against the exit fee increase before the Big Ten move was announced, Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. wrote in the court’s decision that “each member, including the University of Maryland, has agreed to be bound by the vote of the Council,” the AP reported.
A spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said his office is reviewing the North Carolina court’s ruling and is considering its options moving forward.