Which ACC schools voted to sue Florida State (and the 2 that didn’t)

The ACC has said its decision to file a lawsuit against Florida State was unanimous — among those who voted at a January meeting.

A newly obtained document reveals which schools approved and which ones didn’t participate.

North Carolina joined Clemson in missing the ACC board of directors meeting and vote, according to minutes obtained Friday by the Tampa Bay Times. Cal, a non-voting incoming member, wasn’t there, either. All three were listed as “invited but unable to attend.”

The Jan. 12 virtual meeting has come up several times in the dueling lawsuits in Leon County (where FSU sued the ACC) and North Carolina (where the ACC sued FSU).

The Leon County Courthouse has heard arguments in the Florida State-ACC litigation. [ MATT BAKER | Tampa Bay Times ]

In an affidavit from Virginia president/board chairperson James E. Ryan, Ryan said the members “present voted unanimously” to approve the complaint. The affidavit did not elaborate on who was present.

FSU mentioned the unshared agenda and minutes in a recent appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Judge John C. Cooper asked about the meeting’s participants during an April hearing in Leon County; an ACC attorney said only that 12 voting members were there. Because the league has 15 current members — partial member Notre Dame counts; incoming members Cal, Stanford and SMU don’t — that means three schools were missing.

FSU wasn’t invited (because of “conflict of interest,” according to the minutes). Clemson has said in legal filings it never authorized the suit; the Tigers are involved in similar litigation with the ACC. That left one missing member: the Tar Heels — the ultimate wild card in the ACC’s future and one of the top potential targets in the next wave of conference realignment.

There is, however, an extenuating circumstance. The minutes list Kevin Guskiewicz as North Carolina’s absent director (and the board’s vice chair). Guskiewicz was leaving his position as North Carolina’s chancellor to become the president of Michigan State (where he formally started in March). The meeting was during Lee H. Roberts’ first day as UNC’s interim chancellor.

The Zoom call is a key point in the nine-figure litigation over FSU’s future in the ACC. ACC schools did not vote before the conference sued FSU on Dec. 21 (a day before FSU trustees authorized a suit against the ACC). Instead, ACC members approved the updated complaint on Jan. 12. The conference filed it five days later. FSU has questioned whether the ACC’s after-the-fact vote violated league protocols.

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The Seminoles won the 2023 ACC championship in December. Later that month, Florida State and the ACC sued each other. [ ERIK VERDUZCO | AP (2023) ]

Here’s why the debate matters: Who sued whom first is a pivotal factor in determining where the litigation will proceed. FSU and the ACC are both seeking a literal home-court advantage for where their arguments will be heard.

According to the minutes, the half-hour meeting continued a previous discussion between ACC attorneys and the board regarding its original lawsuit and a proposed amended complaint “in response to the actions of Florida State University.”

The ACC’s general counsel, Pearlynn Houck, said she had met with the general counsel of all schools who asked to review additional claims. Houck and ACC commissioner Jim Phillips also discussed the proposed update with school presidents/chancellors.

“Following a thorough discussion and opportunity to ask questions, the Board approved the amended complaint, inclusive of the original claim in the Conference’s complaint, to be filed by the Conference against Florida State University,” the minutes read.

The vote was 12-0.

This spring, the Times filed public-records requests with about half the league’s members to try to obtain the minutes. FSU did not have access to the document, which was shared through a digital box folder FSU was excluded from. Other schools denied the request or said no responsive documents could be found. Clemson produced a draft version of the minutes on Friday.

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