3 ways the Florida State-ACC lawsuits could end

The dueling lawsuits between Florida State and the ACC have seemed destined for a settlement — somewhere between a conference exit fee of about $130 million and a full price tag FSU estimates at $572 million.


There are, however, “unlimited possibilities.” FSU general counsel Carolyn Egan raised three of them in a January letter to ACC general counsel Pearlynn Houck.


One option, Egan wrote, is for the ACC to “immediately, vigorously and actively commence renegotiation” of its TV deals “to make them competitive with those of the Big Ten, the SEC, or the Big 12 (or even any one of them).” This possibility stems from an argument FSU has made publicly and in court filings: ESPN has not yet exercised its option to keep airing ACC games through 2036, so the conference’s TV future is unclear after 2027. That means, according to Egan’s letter, there’s no “in-force agreement.”



Regardless of the feasibility of a renegotiation or how the marketplace would handle it, the financial gap is undeniable. The difference between what FSU gets from the ACC and what schools get from the SEC or Big Ten is about $30 million annually.


Another option Egan suggests is for ACC members to eliminate some or all of the conference’s grant of rights or “its ill-fated extension.” The grant of rights is the document where schools grant (give) the TV rights to their home games to the ACC. The conference sold them to ESPN, which divvies the money back to schools.


The grant of rights allows for modifications or amendments if they’re signed and agreed upon by the ACC and representatives from the schools.


The final option Egan raised is for the ACC to “adopt a reasonable withdrawal penalty structure.” FSU has argued in its court filings that the current penalties are “grossly excessive” and “overly broad.” In addition to an exit fee of about $130 million, FSU would have to give up its TV rights through 2036. That adds more than $400 million to the cost.


Egan writes that these options (or others) “could significantly influence” FSU’s board of trustees if it considers leaving the league. They also have the potential to bring “all litigation to an end, and meaningfully mitigate the Conference’s current existential crisis.”


The ACC previously has raised another way this legal battle could end: FSU could buy its TV rights back from the conference.


Egan’s letter was attached as an exhibit to FSU’s latest filing in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County Superior Court. That’s where the ACC sued Florida State on Dec. 21, a day before FSU trustees voted to file its own suit against the conference in Leon County.


The venue remains in dispute. FSU contends, in part, that the ACC didn’t have the necessary vote by its member schools to file its North Carolina complaint, so the case should be heard in Florida. The ACC, however, argues its suit was filed first and that North Carolina is the proper place venue for the Charlotte-based conference.


Gideon Canice

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