Judge denies Clemson’s request to dismiss ACC countersuit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Clemson’s request to dismiss an Atlantic Coast Conference lawsuit that was filed in response to the school challenging the conference bylaws in court was denied Wednesday by a judge.

The case stems from Clemson’s attempt in March to release itself from the ACC’s grant of rights and a potential $140 million exit fee if it were to leave the conference. Clemson sued the ACC in South Carolina to strike down the grant of rights and avoid the exit fee if it were to leave.

The ACC countersued the next day.

Clemson wanted that countersuit thrown out, or at least paused — stayed — but a judge ruled only a North Carolina court can decide interpretation and enforcement of the bylaws.

Clemson disputed jurisdiction in the case and argued that it cannot be sued in North Carolina because it had not waived sovereign immunity. The court disagreed. North Carolina Chief Business Court Judge Louis A. Bledsoe III cited Clemson’s ongoing participation in league meetings and administration of affairs within North Carolina, including competitions, as having waived immunity.

Bledsoe did, however, grant the school’s motion to dismiss ACC claims of relief for breach of contract and a declaration of its grant of rights as valid and binding contracts. Clemson did not challenge their enforceability, the ruling noted, just the scope.

The ACC celebrated the ruling in a statement and said it reinforces what it has always said — that North Carolina courts are the proper place to enforce and interpret agreements.

“This recognizes the ACC’s consistent position that the 2013 and 2016 Grant of Rights are valid and enforceable agreements that each of our members entered into voluntarily, with full knowledge of their terms,” the statement added.

The ACC has also sued Florida State on similar grounds. Bledsoe has stayed that lawsuit pending the school’s appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court of his ruling that denied its motion to dismiss the case.


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