|Monday, June 30
Lawsuit could seek more than $100 million
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Less than an hour after Miami officially accepted an invitation to join the ACC, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Big East schools would seek to recover not only losses in ticket sales and broadcasting fees, but also the cash value of diminished recruiting power and scarred relationships with donors.
Four Big East football schools are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference and Miami, Blumenthal said Monday.
"Certainly for the Big East as a whole, the damages could well be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,'' Blumenthal said.
The lawsuit, filed in Vernon Superior Court, contends that Miami and the ACC participated in a conspiracy to weaken the Big East.
Blumenthal and the other parties in the lawsuit got official word Monday that a motion to speed up the case had been rejected. Blumenthal had asked the judge to order several key players, including Miami president Donna Shalala, to give depositions or sworn testimony as early as Tuesday. Instead, the judge began a two-week vacation.
"We will continue vigorously to protect the Big East in the courts of Connecticut,'' said Jeffrey Mishkin, the lead counsel for the Big East plaintiffs. "The ACC's 50th anniversary will now be marked with depositions and document discovery exposing the ACC's predatory conduct and Miami's conspiratorial actions.''
Steven Errante, the ACC's attorney in New Haven, said Blumenthal's comments mean nothing.
"I can't speak for Miami, but the ACC will never pay a penny,'' he said.
Errante said Blumenthal's damage estimates are based on speculation and will not hold up in court.
The amount of damages sought in the case will be affected by which teams the Big East invites to replace Miami and Virginia Tech, which last week accepted an invitation to join the ACC, Blumenthal said.
If two high-profile schools with big draws at the ticket office join the Big East, it would be harder for conference lawyers to argue that member schools had suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
The parties will be back in court July 14 to discuss scheduling of the case and to address Miami's motion to dismiss the matter, Blumenthal said.
Virginia Tech, one of the original schools that brought the suit, is not a party to the case, and Blumenthal said he does not believe officials there were part of the alleged conspiracy.
He would not say whether he hopes the lawsuit would result in Miami remaining in the Big East.
Boston College was originally named in the suit but was dropped when the ACC chose not to invite it. Officials there have called the suit a waste of time and money. Blumenthal said nobody was pressuring BC to join the suit.
"I don't think we need to invite them,'' he said. "They're aware of it.''