College football expansion: ACC gets small win vs. Florida State

A modest win for the ACC in its legal battle against Florida State in the ongoing college football conference expansion battle.
Sep 14, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; General view of the Atlantic Coast Conference logo on the field
Sep 14, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; General view of the Atlantic Coast Conference logo on the field / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A judge in North Carolina has denied two motions that were filed by Florida State to dismiss or stay a lawsuit from the ACC, giving the conference a minor win in the legal battle between itself and the school, which is looking to change leagues in a realignment move of its own.

The ruling means the lawsuit will go ahead in North Carolina, where the ACC office is located, rather than in the state of Florida, as the university had hoped, in effect allowing the conference a kind of home field advantage in the legal battle to come.

On the line in the suit is an estimated $500 million that Florida State could be ordered to pay the ACC in an exit fee and other costs should the school leave for another conference before 2036, when the league's grant of rights agreement expires.

"We are pleased with today's decision, which confirms North Carolina courts are the proper place to enforce the ACC's agreements and bylaws," the ACC said in a statement.

The conference added: "We remain committed to acting in the best interests of the league's members and will see this process through to protect and advance the ACC."

Florida State's board of trustees voted unanimously to file suit against the ACC to challenge its grant of rights agreement, but the ACC filed suit against the school the day before by accusing Florida State of breaching its contract with the conference.

"Although it's highly unusual for a court to dismiss a lawsuit at this initial stage, we are disappointed in the Court's decision not to miss the North Carolina lawsuit," Florida State said in a statement after the decision.

"At the same time, we appreciate the ruling today that Florida State could not have breached any supposed fiduciary duties to the ACC by seeking legal relief from the Conference's gross mishandling of member school media rights," the school added.

FSU continued: "We will continue to aggressively advocate for the University, for FSU Athletics, and for the sovereignty of the State of Florida as these cases proceed."

Estimates say that around $130 million of Florida State's would-be exit fee would be drawn from TV revenue if the school leaves the ACC before 2036. The grant of rights keeps schools in the conference until that date.

But Florida State's lawsuit claims that the penalty is not enforceable and that the ACC breached its contract with the school for failing to create proper media rights value.

Getting out before that date is Florida State's aim, with the hopes of joining another league to take advantage of the new marketplace that has emerged amid college football's historic reorganization.

Clemson has also recently sued the ACC, apparently with similar designs on challenging the contract and moving to another conference in the future.

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James Parks

JAMES PARKS

James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.