As expected, Maryland vigorously defended its right to move to the Big Ten without paying a $52 million exit fee to the Atlantic Coast Conference in two legal actions filed Friday.
Maryland attorney general Doug Gansler filed a complaint in Prince George's County circuit court alleging the ACC violated state antitrust laws, breached contractual obligations and interfered with the the economic growth of the school. The suit seeks an injunction against paying the fee and declaratory judgment that it is unlawful.
Gansler also filed a motion in a Greensboro, N.C., court to dismiss the ACC's original lawsuit as a pre-emptive effort to enforce the exit fee, on the grounds that the North Carolina court has no jurisdiction over Maryland or its universities.
"Our lawsuit calls the ACC's 'exit fee' what it really is – an antitrust violation and an illegal penalty," Gansler said in a university. "Our motion in North Carolina will ensure that a Maryland court will rule on the case."
Maryland officials have said all along that they did not expect to pay the entire exit fee, which President Wallace D. Loh voted against implementing on the grounds that he felt it representing an illegal restraint of trade.
The result of Maryland's dispute with the ACC could set the course for the further shifting of conference afiliations in college athletics. The Kansas City Star posited in an article today (which I blogged about seperately) that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany may be waiting to see whether the fee is enforceable before approaching other ACC schools about jumping to the Big Ten.