TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Leon County judge is pumping the brakes on Florida State University’s lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference, ruling that the university must amend its lawsuit within a week before the case moves forward in court, if at all.

What You Need To Know

  • A judge on Monday ordered the pair into mediation and gave FSU a week to refile its lawsuit

  • FSU is suing to exit the ACC without fees, though the court must first determine its jurisdiction

  • The ACC believe it’s home state of North Carolina is the proper forum

  • The judge reminded attendees the case is “not over”

Second Judicial Circuit Judge John Cooper made the bench ruling Monday in Tallahassee while weighing the conference’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit. 

The judge’s order will require the two parties to attend a mediation within 120 days. The order also stipulates that FSU must refile its complaint with “clear language” in seven days, excluding weekends and holidays.

“I want to make sure everyone understands this case is still going on,” said Cooper. “It’s not over.”

Hanging in the balance is a multi-million-dollar media rights deal between FSU and ACC, plus $130 million in exit fees the university may owe the ACC if they split. 

The total exit price, per FSU: roughly $572 million. FSU sued the conference in January, calling the fees “draconian” and the existing media deal “weak.” 

“The ACC has negotiated itself into a self-described ‘existential crisis,’ rendered itself fiscally unstable and substantially undermined its members’ capacity to compete at the elite level,” the lawsuit reads. “In doing so, the ACC violated the contractual, fiduciary and legal duties it owed its members.”

They’re accusing the ACC of breach of contract, trade restraint and failure to perform, accusations that underscore the university’s frustrations over their media earnings through the ACC.

“It wasn’t until Florida State read that other conferences may be getting more money for media rights agreements… that they started to complain,” said Amber Nunnally, an attorney representing the ACC. 

The judge’s refile request comes as the court is trying to determine whether it’s got jurisdiction over the case, as the ACC is based in North Carolina. North Carolina is also where the conference preemptively filed a lawsuit against FSU, just a day after the university’s board voted to sue the ACC.

Lawyers for FSU, however, argue otherwise. Peter Rush, an attorney representing FSU, described Florida State University and University of Miami as “citizens” of Florida. He also accused the ACC of drawing “daggers.”

“That’s hardly the harbinger of happy future family gatherings,” Rush told the judge.

The ACC, meanwhile, maintains that North Carolina is the proper forum. They’re accusing FSU of trying to score an “advisory opinion” through the lawsuit, given that they’ve yet to exit the conference and that a ruling in the case would likely impact their decision to stay or go.

“Florida State is now asking you to invalidate the contract they believe no longer serves them,” said an ACC attorney. 

There are no scheduled hearings between FSU and the ACC as of Monday. The ACC is contracted to hold FSU’s media rights till 2036.