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The ACC accuses Florida State of breach of contract and disclosing trade secrets

Florida State Seminoles mascot Chief Osceola rides Renegade during the playing of the national anthem at the start of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Rebecca Blackwell
/
AP
Florida State Seminoles mascot Chief Osceola rides Renegade during the playing of the national anthem at the start of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Atlantic Coast Conference says FSU broke promises when the Seminoles legally challenged an agreement that binds the school to the league for the next dozen years.

The Atlantic Coast Conference accused Florida State of breach of contract Wednesday, saying the Seminoles broke promises when they legally challenged an agreement that binds the school to the league for the next dozen years.

The ACC initially sued the Florida State Board of Trustees in North Carolina in late December, asking a court to uphold the grant of rights as a valid and enforceable contract.

The league insisted FSU cannot challenge the binding document that the Seminoles signed and that all related issues should be decided in the state where the conference is located.

The league formally amended its complaint Wednesday, alleging FSU violated the signed agreement when it chose to challenge the exclusive grant of rights. The conference also accused the school of releasing confidential information — “trade secrets” between the league and television partner ESPN — in its legal filing in the Sunshine State.

The ACC, in its 55-page filing, is seeking a trial and damages it “reasonably believes will be substantial.”

The league also asked the court for a permanent injunction barring FSU from participating in the management of league affairs while it “has a direct and material conflict of interest” with the ACC's purposes and objective. It also asked for a permanent injunction barring the Seminoles from disclosing confidential information about the TV agreement.

Both sides have agreed to respond to the complaints by mid-February. It could result in more motions filed.

No one expects a merger of the two complaints because they involve two separate state courts. One court could defer to the other or both could proceed independently. Both sides have requested a trial.

After months of threats and warnings, Florida State sued the league in Leon County Circuit Court and claimed the ACC mismanaged its members’ media rights and imposed “draconian” exit fees. Breaking the grant-of-rights agreement and leaving the ACC would cost Florida State $572 million, according to the lawsuit.

Florida State is looking for a way out of a conference it has been a member of since 1992. During its time in the ACC, Florida State won three football national championships, the most recent in 2013, and made the first College Football Playoff in 2014.

The Seminoles were left out of this season’s playoff despite an unbeaten record. Florida State President Richard McCullough said the playoff snub did not prompt the lawsuit.

However, the first sentence of Florida State’s claim states: “The stunning exclusion of the ACC’s undefeated football champion from the 2023-2024 College Football Playoff in deference to two one-loss teams from two competing Power Four conferences crystalized the years of failures by the ACC to fulfill its most fundamental commitments to FLORIDA STATE and its members.”

Florida State leaders believe the ACC locked its members into an undervalued and unusually lengthy contract with ESPN that leaves the Seminoles’ athletic programs at a massive disadvantage against schools in the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, which have TV deals that pay more over a shorter period of time.
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