August 8, 2014

ACC, Maryland settle lawsuits over exit fee

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Maryland announced Friday that the ACC would keep the $31.4 million it had withheld from Maryland, and that the university wouldn’t have to pay more than that.

The ACC and the University of Maryland have reached a settlement after a prolonged legal dispute following Maryland's decision to leave the conference to join the Big Ten.

According to an agreement the ACC announced on Friday, it will keep the $31.4 million it had withheld from Maryland since it announced its move to the Big Ten, which became official last month, and Maryland will not have to pay more than that.

The ACC originally had been seeking an exit fee of more than $50 million. The conference sued Maryland for the money, and the university followed with a counter suit. Both of those proceedings, one filed in North Carolina and the other in Maryland, have been dismissed.

The end of the legal fight between the ACC and Maryland allows both parties fresh starts after the end of a partnership that spanned six decades. Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, will begin athletic competition in the Big Ten this school year, while the ACC has welcomed Louisville, which formally joined the league on July 1.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford in a statement praised the conference's Council of Presidents, and particularly University of Miami President Donna Shalala, for working to reach a resolution.

“This agreement allows everyone to fully focus their energy and efforts on prioritizing the student-athletes, especially in this significant time of change within the NCAA restructuring,” Swofford said. “We wish the University of Maryland well and appreciate their past contributions as we collectively look toward the future.”

Maryland announced its intention to join the Big Ten in November 2012, about two months after the ACC announced that Notre Dame would join the conference as a full-time member in all sports except football. With the addition of Notre Dame, the ACC increased its exit fee to three times the league's annual operating budget – a figure that amounted to $52.3 million when Maryland announced its move.

Maryland voted against raising the exit fee to that amount, and argued that it didn’t have a legal obligation to pay it. The ACC sued Maryland, and then the conference withheld Maryland's share of conference revenue, which prompted the university to file a counter suit against the league. Those disputes ended when both sides agreed that the ACC would keep the $31,361,788 it had withheld.

“The University of Maryland is proud of our long and storied 61-year association with the Atlantic Coast Conference,” Wallace D. Loh, the University of Maryland president, said in a statement. “Today’s agreement helps usher in exciting new eras for both the University and the ACC. We wish the conference and our ACC university colleagues well.”

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