The ACC and Maryland agreed to settle their differences Friday, and now everyone can go on their merry way and start anew.
So which side can claim victory in their fight to separate?
On first glance, you might say Maryland -- which ended up paying $31.4 million to leave for the B1G, far less than the $52 million exit fee initially required.
But clearly, this is a win for both sides. The fact the lawsuits and countersuits are now dead is a victory in itself. Yes, Maryland ended up paying less than $52 million to exit. But it also just paid the largest buyout fee in recent realignment history. Consider Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville paid a combined $26 million to leave the Big East/American and join the ACC.
Rutgers paid $11.5 million to leave the Big East and join the B1G. Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M got off much easier. So did West Virginia, which paid $20 million to leave the Big East and join the Big 12.
Though it is true the Big East buyout fees were not nearly as steep as those the ACC presidents agreed to, Maryland just paid the highest fee on record -- proof that raising the exit fee to much larger heights ended up benefiting the league as a whole.
Some may argue that the ACC should have held firm at $52 million, to show other schools in the league it would not be so easy to defect if another realignment wave hits. After all, the ACC is not the old Big East. Consequences must be faced, and lines must be drawn to ensure that never happens again.
But the truth is, if a school is determined to leave, it will no matter the buyout cost. Buyout fees are there as a deterrent, yes, but are generally made to be negotiated. Legal entanglements have followed nearly every defection over the past four years, whether the exit fee was small or large.
The most realistic course of action for both sides, then, was to settle their legal fight and move forward. The time is right, with the 2014-15 season set to begin in just a few short weeks.
Maryland got what it wanted in its move to the B1G, with a few extra million in its cash-strapped pockets. The Terps can look forward to a new era without having to look back at a drawn out-legal battle. And it just so happens the B1G is frontloading its deal with Maryland so the school could make as much as $32 million this year. That's probably not a coincidence.
The ACC got what it wanted, the largest payout delivered to a conference, plus an even stronger replacement member in Louisville, sure to enhance the league in just about every sport it plays. A stronger ACC could very well be a much larger deterrent for any school looking to leave somewhere down the road than a $52 million exit fee.
Both sides can now focus on the future. That has to count as a win for everyone.
Recent exit fees paid during conference realignment:
Colorado: $6.86 million to leave Big 12 for Pac-12
Pitt: $7.5 million to leave Big East for ACC
Syracuse: $7.5 million to leave Big East for ACC
Nebraska: $9.5 million to leave Big 12 for B1G
Louisville: $11 million to leave Big East/American for ACC
Rutgers: $11.5 million to leave Big East for B1G
Missouri: $12.41 million to leave Big 12 for SEC
Texas A&M: $12.41 million to leave Big 12 for SEC
West Virginia: $20 million to leave Big East for Big 12
Maryland: $31.4 million to leave ACC for B1G