ACC countersues Clemson over grant of rights, seeks damages

The ACC countersued Clemson on Wednesday in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, arguing that the school is subject to the grant of rights and withdrawal penalty it agreed to as a league member, while also seeking monetary damages.

The move comes one day after Clemson sued the ACC in Pickens County, South Carolina, challenging the grant of rights and $140 million withdrawal penalty — joining Florida State in suing the conference in a first step to potentially leave the league.

Florida State filed its suit in December in Florida, one day after the ACC preemptively filed its own suit in Mecklenburg County, asking a judge to declare that the grant of rights “is valid and enforceable” and will remain so through June 30, 2036.

The first hearing in that case in Mecklenburg County is scheduled for Friday.

In its suit against Clemson, the ACC used similar language to the suit it filed against Florida State. The ACC argued that Clemson, like Florida State, signed the grant of rights two separate times, in 2013 and 2016, and also voted in 2012 to increase the withdrawal penalty to “an amount equal to three times the total operating budget of the Conference.”

Clemson called into question the league view that it controls its rights even once it leaves the conference, calling it a “nonsensical reading,” “wrong” and “inconsistent with the plain language of that agreement.”

The ACC is asking a judge to declare the plain language of the grant of rights “means what it says” and is “exclusive and irrevocable” through the term.

After the dueling ACC/Florida State lawsuits were filed in December, the ACC said in its suit that Clemson indicated a “desire to work with the conference” regarding its own membership and “requested confidentiality and protections that the ACC would not file a lawsuit against it.”

The ACC said it agreed to seek a solution without resorting to litigation. While it was working to document those assurances, the league claims Clemson filed its lawsuit in Pickens County, South Carolina.

In addition to seeking declaratory judgment on the grant of rights and withdrawal penalty, the ACC is seeking damages from Clemson for its breach of the grant of rights, and its breach of its “duty of good faith and fair dealing.”

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