Clemson sues ACC over 'unconscionable' fees to exit conference

Despite saying they are not leaving the conference, Clemson University has filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference because of their sky-high fees in order to exit.

Florida State’s lawsuit against the conference said that the ACC would charge them $572 million to leave. Clemson says the price is “unconscionable” and “unenforceable.”

As for Clemson, they say the ACC is forcing an “exorbitant $140 million” exit penalty, and the grant of rights used to bind schools to a conference through their media rights should be struck down.


A general view of the Clemson Tigers’ tiger paw logo at midfield during the Tigers’ football game against the Boston College Eagles at Memorial Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Mike Comer/Getty Images)

“Each of these erroneous assertions separately hinders Clemson’s ability to meaningfully explore its options regarding conference membership, to negotiate alternative revenue-sharing proposals among ACC members and to obtain full value for its future media rights,” the school said in the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Clemson maintains the ACC’s interpretation of the grant of rights agreement signed by all 17 members that runs concurrent to the contract with ESPN is wrong. While the conference says the grant of rights allows it to own the media rights to Clemson’s home games after the school leaves the conference, Clemson disagrees.

ACC logo during a college football game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Virginia Cavaliers. (Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


“By espousing an inaccurate interpretation of the grant of rights agreements and allowing that interpretation to proliferate throughout the media, the ACC has cast a harmful cloud of doubt on Clemson’s ability to engage in meaningful discussions with other conferences and media providers regarding potential future collaborations and/or to negotiate alternative revenue-sharing proposals among ACC members.”

Florida State and Clemson are the only ACC schools to make the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014.

Cade Klubnik #2 of the Clemson Tigers hugs head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers during an on-field interview after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 31-23, at Memorial Stadium on November 4, 2023 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

“The ACC remains confident that its agreements with all its members will be affirmed by the courts,” the conference said in a statement. “Clemson, along with all ACC members, voluntarily signed and re-signed the 2013 and 2016 Grant of Rights, which is binding through 2036. In addition, Clemson agreed to the process and procedures for withdrawal. The Conference’s legal counsel will vigorously enforce the agreement and bylaws in the best interests of the ACC’s current and incoming members.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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