Breaking down the ACC’s updated lawsuit against Florida State

The 191-page complaint says FSU should be barred from the ACC’s affairs during this conflict.
The ACC has accused Florida State University of more wrongdoing in the latest legal back-and-forth between FSU and its conference.
The ACC has accused Florida State University of more wrongdoing in the latest legal back-and-forth between FSU and its conference. [ ERIK VERDUZCO | AP (2023) ]
Published Jan. 18|Updated Jan. 18

The ACC has asked a North Carolina court to bar Florida State University from “participating in the management” of the conference’s affairs and accused FSU of “serial breaches of critical legal promises and obligations.”

Those are among the new details and claims the conference made Wednesday in Mecklenburg Superior Court.

Here’s the latest on the legal back-and-forth between the Seminoles and their conference home since 1991.

What happened Wednesday?

The ACC filed an amended complaint covering 191 pages (including exhibits). It’s an update to the one the conference filed on Dec. 21. It’s also a response of sorts to the complaint FSU filed against the conference the next day in Leon County Circuit Court.

What’s the most interesting new information?

The ACC wants Florida State and its representatives out of the conference’s affairs. The conference argues its members have a “fiduciary obligation” to the league and its peer schools to “act in ways that advance” common goals. FSU, instead, has filed a complaint against the conference to pursue a potential exit from the league. As a result, the ACC says, all of FSU’s actions “have been for its own benefit, with no regard for the best interest of the Conference.” Therefore, Florida State has breached its obligations and set up a conflict between the school and conference. The ACC concludes that FSU shouldn’t be involved in league affairs until that conflict is resolved.

The ACC and Florida State remain at odds.
The ACC and Florida State remain at odds. [ ERIK VERDUZCO | AP (2023) ]

What else is at stake?

Money, of course. The ACC said it has already been damaged by FSU’s actions in a yet-to-be-determined but likely “substantial” amount. That part wasn’t in the original complaint.

Are there any other new arguments?

Yes. The ACC added three other new claims of relief — buckets of alleged wrongdoing by FSU. One is that Florida State broke its promises regarding the “validity and enforcement” of the grant of rights by challenging it. The grant of rights is the document in which FSU and other schools give their TV rights to the conference, which sells them to ESPN and gives the money back to schools.

The conference also said the Seminoles deliberately released confidential, contract-related information in their suit and that the school failed to act in good faith. Collectively, they amount to “serial breaches of critical legal promises and obligations which it made over the last 13 years to the ACC.”

Did the ACC take issue with anything else?

Yes. The school’s board of trustees failed to give the customary one-week notice before its meeting last month. Instead, it scheduled an emergency meeting on the last workday before Christmas. The ACC said FSU didn’t tell the public the nature of the emergency that prevented it from giving the legally required notice.

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“In fact, there was no ‘emergency,’ but only Florida State’s desire to file a preemptive lawsuit against the ACC in Leon County, Florida, Florida State’s home county,” the claim said.

What’s next?

A lot of litigating, starting with continued debate about where that litigation will take place — either in the ACC’s home court (it’s based in Charlotte, North Carolina) or FSU’s home court in Tallahassee. In both cases, the legal teams have agreed to file their next motions by Feb. 16.

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