ACC sues U.Md. for $52m exit fee

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Photo - COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Randy Edsall of the Maryland Terrapins motions to the defense from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Temple Owls at Byrd Stadium on September 24, 2011 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Randy Edsall of the Maryland Terrapins motions to the defense from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Temple Owls at Byrd Stadium on September 24, 2011 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Local,Sports,Maryland,Rachel Baye

The Atlantic Coast Conference is suing the University of Maryland over the $52.3 million exit fee the school owes when it leaves the conference for the Big Ten.

When the university announced the move last week, officials said the penalty -- which ACC presidents approved to be equal to three times the conference's $17.4 million annual operating budget -- is minor compared with the amount the school expects to rake in as a result of the switch and had been factored into the decision to leave the ACC.

However, the university also said the fee might be negotiable.

The lawsuit filed in Guilford County Superior Court in Greensboro, N.C., says Maryland President Wallace Loh "has made it clear that defendant Maryland does not intend to pay the amount."

The lawsuit is intended to make sure that the school does, in fact, pay, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. "We continue to extend our best wishes to the University of Maryland; however, there is the expectation that Maryland will fulfill its exit fee obligation."

University of Maryland spokeswoman Crystal Brown declined to comment.

The ACC's exit fee more than tripled over a year. The league raised the fee from $20 million to the current $52 million in September when Notre Dame was added to the conference -- both Maryland and Florida State University opposed the increase -- after raising it from roughly $12 to $14 million in September 2011.

The decision to leave the conference the school helped to create nearly 60 years ago was largely motivated by the promise of a multimillion-dollar boost for the Terps, who had to cut seven sports teams this year because of a budget shortfall. The athletic program -- whose finances are independent from the rest of the university -- has struggled in recent years to pay for a $50 million expansion of Byrd Stadium.

When the school becomes a member of the Big Ten in July 2014, Maryland is expected to earn more than $24 million a year from the league's television contract -- the most lucrative TV contract in college sports -- compared with the $17 million ACC schools earn.

But university officials have also painted the move as one that would benefit academics.

"There is nothing to match this level of academic collaboration [in the Big Ten] except ... in the Ivy League," University System Chancellor William Kirwin said when the move was announced.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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