The moment that the University of Maryland announced its intentions to leave the ACC for the Big Ten in November, those who have anything to do with collegiate athletics had to believe that this would not be a pretty situation.
While there has been plenty of movement in recent years the feelings tend to be more raw when a league is losing a member for the first time, as was the case for John Swofford’s conference.
In the aftermath of that decision the conference sued the University to make sure they would receive the full $53 million exit fee as agreed upon (by vote; Maryland and Florida State voted against this measure) by league members when Notre Dame joined the ACC in all sports with the exception of football.
With the ACC also making the move to withhold “shared revenue payments as collateral towards the exit fee” (that’s about $3 million right now), two motions were filed by Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler to get the ACC’s lawsuit (filed in North Carolina) dismissed.
The state also wants the shared revenue money that the ACC is withholding to be released to Maryland.
“They sent us a letter saying they are withholding royalties, the amount of money [the University of Maryland is] entitled to,” Gansler said. “They’re doing this because the University of Maryland owes them $53 million.
“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.”
According to both the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post Gansler filed motions in Prince Georges County (Md.) and Greensboro, N.C., with the latter being the city in which the ACC offices are located.
The matter of the $53 million exit fee is something that many within collegiate athletics will keep a close eye on. If the ACC gets its way and Maryland has to pay the full amount, will this keep their current (and future) membership from having wandering eyes?
If Maryland were to end up paying far less than that amount could that open the doors for other conferences to go after ACC members?
In voting against the raised exit fee in September, Maryland president Wallace D. Loh stated that he didn’t agree with the punishment of “people if they simply exit a relationship.”
Loh stressed that his objection stemmed solely from personal beliefs, and not a desire on Maryland’s part to protect itself in the event that it one day decides to leave the ACC. In fact, Loh repeatedly praised the relationship between Maryland and the ACC, saying that the school will continue to be a part of it for years to come.
Today’s action by the State of Maryland was to be expected. And with both sides looking unwilling to budge, the situation between Maryland and the ACC could get ugly. And just how ugly it gets will have an impact on the next step (if there is one) in major conference realignment.