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Judge denies Florida State's request to dismiss ACC's lawsuit against the school

FILE - Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips speaks Oct. 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. In an interview with The Associated Press, Phillips says there is a “significant disconnect” between the league’s recent reputation and its strong track record of March wins. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A judge in North Carolina on Thursday denied Florida State's request to dismiss the Atlantic Coast Conference's lawsuit against the school, which is trying to sue its way out of the league with a complaint in its home state.

A little less than two weeks after a hearing in Mecklenburg County, Judge Louis A. Bledsoe III ruled that the ACC sufficiently argued it had followed conference procedures in filing suit in December against Florida State and that North Carolina, where the league is headquartered, is the appropriate jurisdiction for the dispute.

“We are pleased with today’s decision, which confirms North Carolina courts are the proper place to enforce the ACC’s agreements and bylaws," the conference said in a statement. "We remain committed to acting in the best interests of the league’s members and will see this process through to protect and advance the ACC.”

A hearing in FSU's lawsuit against the ACC is scheduled for Tuesday in Leon County, Florida, but typically under Florida law when there are conflicting lawsuits in multiple states, the first to file will receive preference.

"Although it’s highly unusual for a court to dismiss a lawsuit at this initial stage, we are disappointed in the Court’s decision not to dismiss the North Carolina lawsuit," Florida State said in a statement.

Bledsoe did grant Florida State's motion to dismiss the ACC's claim that suing the conference was a breach of fiduciary duty to the league, but he kept in place the conference's claim that the school breached its duty to “good faith and fair dealing under the ACC’s Constitution and Bylaws.”

Florida State is challenging the ACC's exit fees and the validity of a contract called a Grant of Rights that binds league members together through their media rights. The ACC's contract with ESPN expires in 2036. The deal lags way behind the value of those signed by the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences.

Florida State claims it would cost $572 million to exit the conference. The school says its athletics department is in danger of not being able to compete with Big Ten and SEC schools because of the growing revenue gap.

Clemson recently filed a similar lawsuit to Florida State’s against the ACC in South Carolina.

The ACC claims that both schools are breaching their contracts with the conference by suing.

The day before Florida State's board of trustees approved the filing of a lawsuit against the ACC in a Dec. 22 public meeting, the conference filed its lawsuit in North Carolina against the school.

Florida State argued the conference had no right to preemptively sue and did not get the required three-fourths approval from its members to do so.

Bledsoe said the conference was in its right to act to address the obvious threat of a lawsuit, calling FSU's actions “unavoidable and a practical certainty,” and to do so in North Carolina, where the ACC offices have been located for 70 years. The ACC recently relocated to Charlotte after decades in Greensboro.

"The Court further concludes that the nature of the case and the applicable law strongly favor allowing this matter to proceed in North Carolina. The key contracts in this case — the Grant of Rights and the Amended Grant of Rights — were made in North Carolina and are governed by North Carolina law," Bledsoe wrote in the 76-page ruling.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football