By: Mike Davis
For months now, the ACC and Maryland have been embroiled in a lawsuit over Maryland’s exit fee. The ACC argues that Maryland owes the conference $52.3 million while Maryland says they are not obligated to pay that amount and alleges the ACC improperly withheld $16 million from the school.
Things took an unusual turn when Maryland filed a counterclaim seeking $157 million for anti trust violations. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said in a statement, ”Our lawsuit calls the ACC’s exit fee what it really is, an antitrust violation and an illegal activity.”
The counterclaim also alleged representatives from Wake Forest and Pittsburgh ”each contacted a Big Ten university in an attempt by the ACC to recruit at least two Big Ten schools.”
The legal proceedings between the ACC and Maryland have been the longest and most complicated exit fee negotiations since conference realignment started in 2010. The lack of a settlement between the two sides was fueled by the unprecedented amount of $52 million the ACC is seeking as an exit fee. The dire financial situation of Maryland’s athletic department has put the University in a tough position.
Maryland athletics ran a $21 million deficit last year and was reported to have a debt of $83 million in 2011. Maryland is fighting the ACC tooth and nail in large part because they simply cannot afford to take a $52 million hit. This means that the ACC/Maryland litigation will continue to drag on, allowing more and more of the dirty laundry between the two to be exposed.
It is hilarious to think that the ACC tried to poach the oldest and most stable athletic conference in college football. If I had to guess which two schools the ACC tried to lure away, the most obvious choice would be Penn State. As for a second possible target, Northwestern and Indiana are the most likely to have been expansion choices.
Penn State has long been a pipe dream for the ACC and its fans as a potential member. The hypothetical scenario gained a little bit of steam in the past two years when the ACC added longtime PSU rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh. There was also speculation that as a result of the child abuse scandal, Penn State would be open to switching conferences in an attempt to redefine their identity and distance themselves from their past.
Being the only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern could have been a potential target by the ACC, a conference with six private schools already. Northwestern’s proximity to Chicago is appealing due to the amount of basketball recruits emerging from the Windy City. Indiana may have been a target because they are a tradition-rich basketball school which would further establish the ACC as the most tradition-rich basketball conference. Indiana also has geographical proximity with partial ACC member Notre Dame.
The big question remains: did the ACC really do this?
If Maryland was willing to state these this allegations in a lawsuit, then there is obviously some truth to it. You can’t hold it against the ACC for trying to pull off these attempted raids. The ACC probably knew this was a longshot but you can not blame them for testing the waters. The truth is, conferences have plenty of stories like these. As the lawsuits between the ACC and Maryland continue, more and more information like this is likely to surface.