Maryland AG files antitrust action against ACC

BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced two legal actions Friday to make sure Maryland courts hear and decide if the Atlantic Coast Conference violated antitrust laws.

The N.C.-based ACC is a collegiate athletic league with 12 member universities, including the University of Maryland. In November, the University of Maryland announced that it would join the Big Ten Conference starting in 2014. Following the announcement, the ACC sued in North Carolina state court to enforce a $52.26 million withdrawal penalty.

Gansler filed a lawsuit on behalf of the board of regents of the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland, alleging that the exit free is an illegal restraint of trade in violation of antitrust laws. Gansler also moved to dismiss the ACC's state court action in North Carolina, arguing that the court has no jurisdiction over the sovereign state of Maryland and its public universities.

"Our lawsuit calls the ACC's 'exit fee' what it really is - an antitrust violation and an illegal penalty," Gansler said. "Our motion in North Carolina will ensure that a Maryland court will rule on the case."

Gansler's lawsuit said that the move to the Big Ten Conference would provide financial security for the University of Maryland's athletic programs and enhance the school's educational and research opportunities through membership in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation. The COIC is an academic consortium of the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago.

The lawsuit alleges that the ACC violated Maryland antitrust laws, breached contractual obligations and interfered with the prospective economic advantage of the flagship campus of the University of Maryland system. Gansler's suit seeks an injunction against enforcement of the exit fee, a declaratory judgment that finds the fee unlawful, treble damages and other relief.

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