By JIM SAUNDERS
News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Sure, college football is about tradition, rivalries and rooting for the old alma mater.
But it’s also about money. Big money.
And Florida State University argues it’s getting shortchanged.
FSU on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference, taking aim at a media-rights deal and alleging the conference has “persistently undermined its members’ revenue opportunities.”
The end game could be for FSU to leave the ACC after more than 30 years and play on Saturday afternoons in a conference where television deals are more lucrative, such as the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten conference.
FSU Board of Trustees Chairman Peter Collins said the ACC’s deal has left FSU drawing $30 million to $40 million a year less than if it were in other big football conferences.
“There should be no debate that our brand media value and competitiveness across all sports are among the very best in collegiate athletics,” Collins said.
But the ACC immediately signaled it is ready to do battle. Commissioner Jim Phillips and Jim Ryan, chairman of the ACC Board of Directors, issued a statement that said FSU’s decision to go to court “is in direct conflict with their long standing obligations and is a clear violation of their legal commitments to the other members of the conference.”
They said lawyers for the conference “will vigorously enforce the agreement in the best interests of the ACC’s current and incoming members.”
The case, filed in Leon County circuit court, focuses on a media-rights deal that will run for another 13 years and on steep costs for schools exiting the conference, including what the lawsuit describes as a “withdrawal penalty” of $130 million. The case involves challenging a “grant of rights” that FSU and other schools in the conference are tied to in an ESPN contract.
The contract gives the league control over TV revenue and broadcasts and stipulates schools would have to buy out of the deal if they want to leave early.
David Ashburn, an attorney with the Greenberg Traurig law firm who represents FSU, said the contract violates restraint of trade under Florida law; imposes an “unenforceable” penalty because the conference’s contract with ESPN would remain unchanged with an FSU exit; and fails to provide FSU with the value of its media rights.
House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, created a stir this summer when he raised the idea of consolidating judicial circuits.
After Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muniz appointed a committee to study consolidation, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, sheriffs and other officials from across the state spoke out against the idea.
The committee recommended against consolidation, and the Supreme Court on Thursday followed suit.
“We have considered the committee’s report and recommendation. And we ourselves have evaluated the issues relevant to consolidation, guided by (criteria in a court rule),” a unanimous Supreme Court decision said. “Based on the committee’s findings and recommendations and on our own independent judgment, we do not find that there is a need to consolidate Florida’s judicial circuits.”
After the Supreme Court decision, Renner’s office issued a statement saying he wouldn’t pursue the idea during the legislative session that will start Jan. 9.
“The speaker put forward a thoughtful and timely request to review how our courts are structured hoping to find economies of scale to better serve Floridians,” the statement said. “We appreciate and accept the Supreme Court’s opinion and thank the committee for their diligent work in presenting their recommendations. We do not intend to bring any legislation forward this year regarding circuit court consolidation.”
Florida has 20 judicial circuits, a number that would be reduced by consolidation. Critics of the idea argued, in part, that consolidation could diminish access to courts for lower-income people and rural residents, pose logistical problems and be costly.
But in a June 15 letter to Muniz that led to appointment of the committee, Renner said the “boundaries of Florida’s judicial circuits have been unchanged for decades despite significant population and demographic changes during that timeframe.”
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
The executive board of the Republican Party of Florida on Sunday stripped party Chairman Christian Ziegler of his powers and cut his pay to $1 amid a Sarasota police investigation into an alleged sexual assault.
It appears that Ziegler won’t have the chairman’s title much longer, as the party’s executive committee prepares to meet Jan. 8.
Vice Chairman Evan Power, who was given authority over many of the party’s day-to-day operations on Sunday, quickly said he will run for the chairmanship and received endorsements.
“Evan has worked tirelessly to build our party from the grassroots. He has earned the opportunity to lead and has my full support!” Northwest Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz posted online.
Peter Feaman, a Republican national committeeman, also announced that he will seek the chairmanship.
“My mission is simple: Restore the good name and reputation of the Republican Party of Florida, previously the most admired in the country,” Feaman said in a post on the social-media site X. “Raise money for the party using my national contacts gained through 12 years on the RNC (Republican National Committee). Unify the grassroots and work with our presidential nominee to deliver a decisive victory in November.”
STORY OF THE WEEK: Florida State University filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference related to athletic revenues.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The overall driving force of denying transgender validity underlies all of it. It’s one other piece of a whole mosaic of evidence … of invidious discrimination.” — Thomas Redburn, an attorney for plaintiffs during a trial Thursday in a lawsuit challenging Florida restrictions on treatments for transgender people..