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ACC suing Big Ten-bound Maryland over $50 million exit fee

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
The ACC has filed suit seeking an exit fee of more than $52 million from the University of Maryland. (Getty Images)

The ACC has filed suit against the University of Maryland and is looking to make sure the school pays more than $52 million for bolting to the Big Ten. According to the 10-page lawsuit, filed Monday in Guilford County (N.C.) Superior Court, the ACC said the school must pay $52,266,342 to leave the ACC.

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In a statement, commissioner John Swofford says the ACC's council of presidents unanimously decided "to file legal action to ensure enforcement of this obligation."

"We continue to extend our best wishes to the University of Maryland; however, there is the expectation that Maryland will fulfill its exit fee obligation," Swofford said.

On Nov. 19, Maryland announced its intention to join the Big Ten. The next day, Rutgers opted out of its Big East membership in order to follow the Terps.

The ACC raised its exit fee to roughly $50 million in September after adding Notre Dame in all sports except football. The exit fee is three times the league's annual operating budget so it could fluctuate from year to year.

Maryland was one of two schools that voted against the increased exit fee. Florida State also voted against the increase, which is approximately a 250 percent increase, up from approximately $20 million 2½ months ago.

The ACC twice increased its exit fee in the span of a year. The fee was around $12 million to $14 million before the league announced in September 2011 it would add Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East, which led the league to bump the fee to $20 million.

That's all we know right now. As this case drags on (there is no timetable for when the lawsuit might be resolved), we'll have a better indication of how much Maryland will have to pay and by when. As it stands, Maryland is set to begin Big Ten play in July 2014.

This is essentially a necessary power move for the ACC. When leagues lose critical members, it's publicly embarrassing and signals weakness and unrest. Every league, except the SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten have shown vulnerability. The ACC has no choice but to fight back and hopefully send a message to other schools that leaving will come at an immense cost.

In the end, I don't see how that matters much. Schools are now willing to pack up and go no matter the short-term cost because the big-picture promise of football-related and TV revenues are ultimately what's luring these leagues to pilfer from each other like vultures swooping down on the decay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
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