Wednesday, February 28, 2024

ACC seeks to block Florida State from league affairs in amended complaint as school explores exit options

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The ACC formally amended its complaint against Florida State Wednesday, multiple outlets report. The 55-page filing alleges the university breached its original contract with the league when it chose to challenge the conference’s exclusive grant of rights for television broadcasts. 

Perhaps most importantly, the ACC requested that the court issue a permanent injunction that would bar FSU from participating in ACC management affairs due to what it calls a “direct and material conflict of interest with the purposes and objectives of the conference,” according to documents obtained by ESPN.

In total, the ACC’s amended complaint included six claims for relief, many of which allege a breach of contract from FSU. All six are outlined below: 

  • Request for declaratory judgment that the grant of rights and amended grant of rights are valid and enforceable contracts
  • In acceptance of benefits provided by the grant of rights, the conference alleges Florida State waived its right to challenge it
  • The ACC alleges Florida State has breached the promises it made in the original grant of rights agreement
  • The ACC alleges Florida State breached its promise to protect “trade secrets” between the league and television partner ESPN
  • The ACC alleges Florida State has breached fiduciary obligations to the conference required by both the ACC constitution and North Carolina law 
  • The ACC alleges Florida State breached its obligation to act in good faith and fair dealing under the ACC constitution 

The amended complaint comes less than a week after the ACC hired Lawson Huck Gonzalez, PLLC, a Florida-based legal firm, to represent the conference, the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

FSU and the ACC initially filed dueling complaints against one another in a span of less than 24 hours from Dec. 21-22. FSU filed against the conference in the Tallahassee Circuit Court, challenging the grant of rights agreement between the ACC and its members that went into effect back in 2016 and runs through 2036. FSU claims the financial penalty to leave the conference before the contract runs out — estimated to be north of $500 million — is unenforceable. 

The ACC, meanwhile, proactively filed legal proceedings refuting FSU’s challenge to the grant of rights. ACC leadership also released a statement contending that the Seminoles were in “clear violation of their legal commitments to the other members of the conference.” 

Since last winter, Florida State leadership has been vocal about the revenue pitfalls FSU is facing compared to other power conferences. Both the Big Ten and SEC recently signed new television deals reported to bring each member around $60 million annually, twice what ACC schools are receiving under their current contract. A tipping point then occurred in early December when FSU was left out of the 2023 College Football Playoff, becoming the first 13-0 power conference champion to miss the four-team event. 

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