- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC finally threw a punch back.
When Maryland announced its decision to join the Big Ten last week, it did so as if it were going to just turn its back and waltz away from a 59-year-old relationship with the ACC, with zero repercussions. University officials at Maryland were thrilled, while the rest of the conference was left reeling and teetering on unstable ground. The ACC didn’t have much of a response -- until now.
This divorce isn’t ending amicably.
The ACC has confirmed its intent to sue Maryland. The conference has a $50 million exit fee, and it expects Maryland to pay it.
As it should.
The fact that Maryland thought it would be able to skirt this ACC bylaw has been one of the most head-scratching developments of the season. How? How could such a financially struggling program find a loophole -- or a check -- big enough to actually make this happen? The ACC is sending a message loud and clear with this lawsuit -- you leave, you pay. It’s that simple.
With the exception obviously of Maryland, every single one of the ACC presidents unanimously agreed to this lawsuit – including North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Clemson … and any other school you want to add to the conference realignment rumor mill. You think the presidents would endorse this move if they were going to be the next to challenge it? Doesn’t make a bit of sense.
Not only were all 11 current ACC presidents in favor of it, but Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame also endorsed their support of the lawsuit, according to a league source. That sign of solidarity is a strong step towards reiterating future stability in the league, and it proves the conference believes its exit fee is non-negotiable. ACC officials believe it is a legally binding agreement, and they tend to use Maryland to prove it.
No invitations have been sent to other programs about joining the ACC, according to a league source.
In order to replace a school, one first has to leave, and with a lawsuit pending, it might be even more difficult for Maryland to walk away than many had originally thought. ACC commissioner John Swofford has wished Maryland well in its pursuit of happiness in the Big Ten, but neither he nor any of the other university presidents are going to let Maryland leave the table without paying the bill first.
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