ACC Files Amended Lawsuit; Alleges FSU Breached Contract, Shared ‘Trade Secrets’

The ACC amended its lawsuit against Florida State to allege the school committed “serial breaches of critical legal promises and obligations,” according to Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde.

Per the Associated Press, the ACC is also alleging that Florida State disclosed “trade secrets” between the league and ESPN, a television partner.

Both sides filed separate litigation in December amid Florida State’s bid to challenge the ACC’s grant of rights, which effectively binds the two parties together through 2036.

Forde reported the ACC’s amended complaint is not only seeking to deem the grant of rights “irrevocable” but also includes an allegation that Florida State “committed a breach of duty as a league member and may need to be excluded from ACC business.”

The ACC is contending Florida State violated a confidentiality clause in the grant of rights as well by publicizing financial details of the conference’s media deal with ESPN, per Forde.

Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated last May reported a group of schools including Florida State and Clemson had met to discuss the enforceability of the ACC’s grant of rights.

Those angling for an exit are frustrated with how the conference’s revenues pale in comparison to the money flowing into the Big Ten and SEC. The fact ESPN’s deal with the ACC runs for more than a decade means the gulf is only going to widen.

Florida State escalated things in August when its board of trustees met and openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“Our goal would be to continue to stay in the ACC, but staying in the ACC under the current situation is hard for us to figure out how we remain competitive, unless there was a major change in the revenue distribution within the conference,” school president Richard McCullough said.

Then came the Seminoles’ exclusion from the College Football Playoff semifinals despite a 13-0 record in the regular season. While an injury to star quarterback Jordan Travis played a role in the selection committee’s decision, many viewed it as an indictment of the ACC as a whole. Those pushing for FSU to leave the conference behind had more ammunition.

“That snub, which occurred after the Seminoles completed a perfect 12-0 regular-season record before winning the ACC championship game, angered many at the university and among its board of trustees, essentially the last straw after a year spent voicing their displeasure with the conference,” ESPN’s Andrea Adelson reported on Dec. 19.

Along with the grant of rights, however, Florida State would be required to pay a steep exit fee based on its current agreement with the ACC.

Forde wrote Wednesday this “projects to be a yearslong battle if both sides remain steadfast and the cases proceed to one or more trials.”

During the last rounds of realignment, the dominoes fell pretty quickly after they first started to wobble. When it comes to Florida State’s future in the ACC, it might be a long time before a resolution is reached.

Gideon Canice

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