The ACC has filed suit against Maryland in a North Carolina court, saying the school is bound by the conference’s bylaws to pay an exit fee in order to join the Big Ten.
The suit, filed Monday in Greensboro, N.C., points to Maryland President Wallace D. Loh’s suspicions that the exit fee – equal to three time’s the ACC’s operating budget – isn’t legal. The ACC is pursuing a declaratory judgment, essentially asking the court to enforce the rules its members have established.
“We continue to extend our best wishes to the University of Maryland; however, there is the expectation that Maryland will fulfill its exit fee obligation,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “On Friday, the ACC Council of Presidents made the unanimous decision to file legal action to ensure the enforcement of this obligation.”
Brian Ullman, Maryland’s assistant vice president for university marketing and communications, declined comment when reached via e-mail.
According to the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the ACC claims Maryland will have to pay $52,266,342 — “three times the total operating budget of the Conference,” according to the complaint — to leave for the Big Ten. Citing comments made by Loh, who questioned the validity of the exit fee in an interview with The Post in September, the ACC is asking the court to “clarify and settle the validity and enforceability of the withdrawal payment.”
“Dr. Loh has distanced Maryland publicly from any commitment to pay the withdrawal payment as set forth” in the ACC constitution and bylaws, the suit reads. The suit says Loh has “refused to provide assurance” that Maryland will pay the fee.
“Additionally, through public and private statements, defendant Maryland has indicated that it does not intend to pay the amount provided by the ACC’s constitution,” the suit says.
ACC presidents voted to raise the exit fee in September, though Loh was one of two ACC presidents to vote against the increase.
The complaint also says that Loh proposed in 2011 to establish the exit fee at 1.25 times the total operating budget of the ACC, and that the ACC Council of Presidents unanimously approved this proposal. Then, one year later, the conference voted to raise the exit fee once again.
The complaint was filed in Guilford County Superior Court in North Carolina. The ACC’s offices are in Greensboro, N.C., in Guilford County.