Maryland Sues College Football League Over Exit Penalty

The University of Maryland filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference after the college football association sued to force the school to pay $52.3 million in exit fees for leaving the group.

The college claims in a lawsuit filed in Prince George’s County Circuit Court in Maryland that the exit penalty is a violation of antitrust law, state Attorney General Douglas Gansler said yesterday in a statement. Maryland also seeks to dismiss the ACC’s lawsuit in state court in North Carolina.

“Our lawsuit calls the ACC’s ‘exit fee’ what it really is -- an antitrust violation and an illegal activity,” Gansler said in the statement. “Our motion in North Carolina will ensure that a Maryland court will rule on the case.”

The University of Maryland announced in November that it would leave the ACC and join the Big Ten Conference in July 2014. The ACC sued to enforce the withdrawal penalty the same month.

“The move to the Big Ten Conference will provide financial security to, and permit Maryland to sustain, its intercollegiate athletic programs, which must be self-sustaining and self-supporting,” according to a copy of today’s complaint provided by the state. “The move will also significantly enhance the academic, educational and research opportunities available to Maryland’s students and faculty.”

Penalty Increased

The college said in its complaint that the ACC “nearly tripled the penalty for leaving the conference, without basis, analysis or justification” in September. The complaint couldn’t be independently confirmed with the court.

Amy Yakola, the senior associate commissioner for the ACC in Greensboro, North Carolina, said in a phone interview that she had no immediate comment on the state’s lawsuit because “our legal team has not reviewed it yet.”

Maryland has been a member of the ACC since its founding in 1953. The ACC consists of 12 institutions, including the University of North Carolina, Duke University and Boston College. The Big Ten includes Penn State University, the University of Nebraska and Purdue University.

In its request to dismiss the ACC’s complaint, Maryland said that one state’s court can’t force another state to submit to its jurisdiction.

The North Carolina case is Atlantic Coast Conference v. University of Maryland, 12-10736, State of North Carolina, Guilford County, General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division (Upper Marlboro).

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