RALEIGH, N.C. — The University of Maryland has filed a $157 million counterclaim against the Atlantic Coast Conference, alleging the league tried to recruit two Big Ten schools after Maryland announced its intention to leave for the Big Ten.
The 53-page document was filed late Monday in Raleigh, N.C.
“Our lawsuit calls the ACC’s ‘exit fee’ what it really is — an antitrust violation and an illegal activity,” Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said in a statement. “Our motion in North Carolina will ensure that a Maryland court will rule on the case.”
The counterclaim contends that 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 document does not name the two schools allegedly targeted by the ACC.
Included in the $157 million sought by Maryland is $16 million the school says has been improperly withheld since November 2012, when Maryland announced it was leaving for the Big Ten.
On Tuesday, ACC spokeswoman Amy Yakola referred to the league’s previous statements after Maryland’s announcement — the first wishing the school well and a second, eight days later, saying “there is the expectation that Maryland will fulfill its withdrawal payment obligation.”
The countersuit is latest in a back-and-forth duel that began when the ACC filed a lawsuit in North Carolina after Maryland announced its departure, claiming the school was required to pay the full exit fee of approximately $52 million.
Maryland responded by filing a lawsuit in January 2013, calling the $52 million amount an illegal penalty. A Maryland judge has put the school’s suit on hold until North Carolina courts issue a final judgment. As part of his ruling, the judge threw out an antitrust claim. He refused to dismiss three other counts, which he stayed.
In November, a North Carolina appeals court panel rejected Maryland’s bid to dismiss the ACC’s lawsuit. Maryland’s ACC departure is scheduled for July.
The countersuit filed this week by Maryland alleges “the ACC has been an aggressive competitor in attempting to convince universities to leave their respective conferences and to become members of the ACC.”
The document contends such actions “are driven in large part by the ACC’s desire to obtain the maximum revenues possible from broadcasting networks such as ESPN.”
Maryland also alleges that the ACC is confiscating NCAA funds from the school and has no right to do so.
As Gansler noted, the suit contends, “The ACC has committed unfair acts and practices including, but not limited to, the ACC’s adoption and implementation of excessive, unreasonable and punitive Withdrawal Penalty.”
The story was first reported by The Baltimore Sun.