ACC, Maryland reach settlement on exit fee: $31.4M, not $52.2M (2023)

The University of Maryland will forfeit $31.4 million for leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference to go to the Big Ten Conference, the ACC announced Friday.

Maryland and the ACC had been involved in dueling lawsuits in the states of Maryland and North Carolina over the amount of the exit fee.

During the legal battle, which began in November 2012, the ACC had been withholding Maryland's shares of conference revenue. Maryland officially became a member of the Big Ten on July 1, 2014.

In a statement Friday, the conference said that a mediated agreement will result in the conference keeping the $31,361,788 it had ultimately withheld and Maryland not having to make any further payments.

The ACC had claimed that under an agreement made by the ACC's member schools in September 2012 — an agreement Maryland voted against — Maryland owed $52.2 million for leaving.

The ACC sued Maryland in November 2012 in North Carolina to enforce the payment. Maryland initially countersued the ACC in a Maryland state court in January 2013, but in June 2013 a judge dismissed a portion of Maryland's case relating to state anti-trust law and ruled that rest of the suit should be stayed pending the outcome of the North Carolina proceeding.

In January 2014, Maryland filed a $156.8 million counter-claim against the ACC in North Carolina, alleging the conference broke its own rules in setting the exit fee, which the schools set at an amount equal to three times the ACC's operating budget at the time a school provides official notice of withdrawal.

Maryland claimed that the ACC member schools took this action without the conference and commissioner John Swofford adhering to conference rules regarding pre-vote review and notice of the proposed change. Even if the vote had been proper, Maryland alleged that under ACC rules it should not have become effective until July 1, 2013 — after Maryland announced in November 2012 its intention to leave for the Big Ten and after Maryland had provided its official notice of withdrawal in June 2013.

"I commend our Council of Presidents and specifically (University of Miami president and ACC Council of Presidents chair) Donna Shalala for steering us to this resolution," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in the statement. "This agreement allows everyone to fully focus their energy and efforts on prioritizing the student-athletes, especially in this significant time of change within the NCAA restructuring. We wish the University of Maryland well and appreciate their past contributions as we collectively look toward the future."

Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said in the statement: "Today's agreement helps usher in exciting new eras for both the University and the ACC. We wish the conference and our ACC university colleagues well."

Maryland's exit fee ends up being nearly three times what Rutgers paid to withdraw from the former Big East Conference to enter the Big Ten along with Maryland.

In February 2014, Rutgers agreed to pay $11.5 million, a settlement that ended litigation involving the school and its former conference, now known as the American Athletic Conference. At that time, Rutgers President Robert Barchi said in a statement that the settlement was for $3.5 million less than the amount that originally had been sought from Rutgers.

When West Virginia University left the Big East for the Big 12, the conference ended up receiving or retaining a total of $20 million.


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