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UPDATE: ACC responds to Florida State Board of Trustees vote to file legal complaint against ACC

The ACC is locked into a deal with ESPN that still has more than a decade left.
Florida State ACC Football
Posted at 10:47 AM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2024-01-31 16:42:27-05

UPDATE 12:15 P.M.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, has filed a legal complaint against the Florida State University Board of Trustees. The complaint was filed Thursday. In the court documents, the ACC makes the following claims:

  • At its core, this case involves the legal promises of Florida State and its obligations to the Conference to which it has belonged and from which it has profited from for more than 30 years.
  • In 2013 and 2016, Florida State, along with the other Members ofthe ACC, agreed to and executed a "Grant of Rights"
  • In signing the Grant of Rights, Florida State explicitly agreed that it would not "take any action, or permit any action to be taken by others subject to its control . . that would affect the validity and enforcement" of the Grant of Rights.
  • Florida State further promised that its Grant was "irrevocable" and "exclusive" through its term.
  • Florida State now intends to breach its contractual obligations
  • The ACC seeks a declaration that the Grant of Rights signed by Florida State in 2013 and 2016 is valid and enforceable


ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D., and Jim Ryan, Chair of the ACC Board of Directors responded to the Florida State board of trustees vote with the statements below:

“Florida State’s decision to file action against the Conference is in direct conflict with their longstanding obligations and is a clear violation of their legal commitments to the other members of the Conference. All ACC members, including Florida State, willingly and knowingly re-signed the current Grant of Rights in 2016, which is wholly enforceable and binding through 2036. Each university has benefited from this agreement, receiving millions of dollars in revenue and neither Florida State nor any other institution, has ever challenged its legitimacy.

“As a league, we are proud of the successes of our student-athletes and that the ACC has won the most NCAA National Championships over the past two and half years while also achieving the highest graduation success and academic performance rates among all FBS conferences, so it is especially disappointing that FSU would choose to pursue this unprecedented and overreaching approach.

“We are confident that the Grant of Rights, which has been honored by all other universities who signed similar agreements, will be affirmed by the courts and the Conference’s legal counsel will vigorously enforce the agreement in the best interests of the ACC’s current and incoming members.”


Florida State University held a Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning to discuss the future of the athletic department and its affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The board voted to file a legal complaint against the ACC.


Following the meeting, the plan is to file the complaint electronically in Leon County Circuit Court. The board will then wait for ACC to file its response. Once that happens, the litigation process begins.

Read the complaint here.

The Associated Press reported Florida State leaders have made it known they are unhappy with the school's current situation in the ACC, where revenue distribution lags way behind the payouts to schools in the Southeastern and Big Ten conferences. According to the AP’s reporting, that gap is likely to grow substantially in the near future as new media rights deals kick in for the SEC and Big Ten while the ACC is locked into a deal with ESPN that still has more than a decade left.


The AP reported that earlier this month, Florida State won the ACC football title game but became the first Power Five conference champion to finish with an undefeated record and still be left out of the College Football Playoff.


The snub of the Seminoles (13-0) for a playoff spot that went to SEC champion Alabama reignited frustrations at Florida State with what many of their supporters view as conference that holds back their athletic program — and most notably the football team, according to the AP. The Associated Press also reported that any ACC school that wants to leave the conference would have to challenge the grant of rights to be able to get out before joining another league. The grant of rights, which runs through 2036, gives the ACC control over media rights for its member schools — including the broadcast of games in all sports, the AP said.


The AP reported, in addition, any school that wants to leave the ACC would have to pay an exit fee of three times the league’s operating budget, or roughly $120 million.


The length of the ACC's agreement and potential financial penalties have protected the conference from being poached by other leagues the way the Big 12 and Pac-12 have been in the most recent round of realignment, according to the AP. But it has also caused consternation in the conference as its members see a future where SEC and Big Ten schools are receiving upwards of $75 million annually from their conferences and ACC schools are struggling to stay within $30 million of their competitors.


The Associated Press said Florida State is not the only ACC member concerned about the growing revenue gap, but it has been by far the most vocal.