Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has filed a lawsuit in Prince George’s County Circruit Court to dismiss the ACC’s lawsuit against the University of Maryland, saying “a North Carolina court has no jurisdiction over the sovereign state of Maryland and its public universities.”
Gansler also announced Friday that he has filed a complaint against the ACC on behalf of the Maryland Board of Regents and the university at large, calling the $53.3 million exit fee the conference wishes to impose on Maryland an “illegal restraint of trade in violation and antitrust laws.”
“Our lawsuit calls the ACC’s ‘exit fee’ what it really is — an antitrust violation and an illegal penalty,” Gansler said in a news release. “Our motion in North Carolina will ensure that a Maryland court will rule on the case.
“Maryland has moved to dismiss that action because a court of a sister state cannot compel another sovereign state to submit to that court’s jurisdiction.”
Shortly after Maryland announced its impending move to the Big Ten in November, the ACC filed suit against the school in Guilford County (N.C.) Superior Court, saying Maryland is bound by the conference’s bylaws to pay a $52,266,342 exit fee in order to leave the conference.
The ACC was seeking to enforce the exit fee, which was increased to three times the conference’s total operating budget in a September vote by the ACC Council of Presidents. Loh was one of the two dissenting votes in the vote, insisting at the time that the exit fee was punitive and wouldn’t hold up in court.
Loh’s comments were cited by the ACC as one reason why the conference was filing the lawsuit.
In a letter dated Dec. 14 that was obtained by The Washington Post, the ACC notified the University of Maryland that it is withholding the school’s share of conference television revenues — $3,067,255.27 — for the 2012-13 academic year. The conference is applying that amount toward Maryland’s exit fee, saying that such a move is permitted by the ACC constitution.
“When they sent us the letter, that triggered the ability for us to bring a lawsuit in court, saying you owe us this money. That’s what we filed. We filed it for the money and for the antitrust implications,” Gansler said in a telephone interview.
Gansler’s lawsuit alleges that the ACC violated Maryland antitrust laws, “breached contractual obligations and tortiously interfered with the prospective economic advantage of the flagship campus of the University of Maryland System.” It also says the ACC has excluded Maryland from conference meetings and barred coaches from meetings about competition, scheduling and planning.
The University of Maryland declined to comment, deferring all questions to Gansler’s office.