Will Clemson's lawsuit vs ACC win? One legal expert answers this and more key questions (2024)

Derrian CarterGreenville News

CLEMSON —Clemson University and the Atlantic Coast Conference are continuing their litigation against each other.

The legal battle started after Clemson filed their initial complaint against the ACC in Pickens County, South Carolina, over the conference's grant of rights deal and withdrawal penalty on March 19. The ACC responded a day later with its countersuit in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Clemson is now seeking damages from the ACC over alleged false statements regarding its media rights in an amended complaint that was filed on April 17 in Pickens County.

A Pickens County judge ordered an interim ruling on May 3 that the ACC must provide an unredacted copy of its ESPN contract to Clemson within seven days, but the contract must remain confidential and only be used for litigation. Both parties have also exchanged motions to dismiss each other's complaints over the past week.

With more moves expected, The Greenville News spoke to attorney Kevin Paule to answer five key questions regarding Clemson and the ACC's lawsuits.

Is Clemson's lawsuit really a legal step in potentially leaving the ACC?

Like with Florida State, when Clemson filed its complaint against the conference, it was viewed as an initial step to potentially leave the ACC.

"It's definitely an attempt by these schools to attempt to leave, and they've decided that filing these lawsuits may help give them more leverage if they're going to try to negotiate that with the ACC," Paule said.

Will Clemson's lawsuit be successful against the ACC?

Paule said it is very early in the litigation process to determine if Clemson's lawsuit will win, but he estimates that the complaint will end in a settlement.

"Using litigation and filing these lawsuits is one way to try to, perhaps, negotiate a reduced exit fee or some sort of settlement," Paule said. "Now the risk on the part of the ACC is if you allow one team to leave, or allow two teams to leave, then what happens when more ask to leave or go somewhere else."

Paule added it would be surprising if there's a ruling before the 2025 college football season because of how long these cases take to proceed.

Why does Clemson want to view the ACC's grant-of-rights agreement?

Both Clemson and Florida State have emphasized wanting a copy of the ACC's grant of rights, which is the media rights agreements between the conference and its TV partner — ESPN — that runs through 2036. The ACC doesn't allow copies of its grant of rights to protect confidentiality and trade secrets.

Paule says both schools have argued that if the contract is binding, and they must follow the terms, then the ACC needs to provide them with a copy of the agreement. With the documents, both would dissect and use them to support their arguments in court.

"The calculus for both these schools is if we're going to leave — we're both obviously very big brand names, have very large and passionate fan bases — (we) want to be able to bring our TV rights with us, so that can be included with the new conference," said Paule.

In its original complaint, Clemson argued the ACC only owns its media rights if it is in the conference, not if it departs. The ACC disagreed in itscountersuit, arguing it owns Clemson's media rights until 2036 even if it exits the conference.

MORE ON CLEMSON: Clemson's lawsuit makes clear that its exit from the ACC is not a question of if but when

Why did Clemson choose Pickens County to file its lawsuit?

Clemson, Florida State and the ACC filed their respective lawsuits in their own states with each hoping to get a favorable result from their state's court.

"Since they're fighting so hard to litigate these in a particular jurisdiction, they think they might get a better outcome in one place over another," Paule said.

This is evident with Clemson filing its motion to dismiss the ACC's complaint in North Carolina on May 6, and the league filing its motion to dismiss Clemson's complaint in South Carolina on May 7.

What would happen if Clemson and the ACC win their respective suits?

Paule admits it would be unclear how things would play out if this scenario occurred.

"The strategy for the schools and for the conference is to move forward as quickly as possible in the state where you brought your suit and hope that you get the first ruling before there's a ruling elsewhere," Paule said. "But, it's certainly possible that you could have — if this were to go the distance — a situation where you have different results in different courts."

Paule added that a ruling in one court in a different state would not be binding to the other state. For example, if the South Carolina complaint's decision is made first, it may not impact how the North Carolina's complaint plays out.

Derrian Carter covers Clemson athletics for The Greenville News and the USA TODAY Network. Email him atdcarter@gannett.comand follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @DerrianCarter00

Will Clemson's lawsuit vs ACC win? One legal expert answers this and more key questions (2024)
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