College Football

OVC sues Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville St over exit fees

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (AP) The Ohio Valley Conference has sued Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, contending they have not paid $1 million exit fees after both schools left the league this year for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State joined the ASUN on July 1 after announcing their respective departures in January and February. The OVC said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the lawsuit was filed in circuit courts in Franklin County, Kentucky and Calhoun County, Alabama.

The league says the schools have refused to pay exit fees agreed upon by conference members. The statement noted that exit fees are determined by the date of notice and added that both schools made them less than two years before they planned to leave.

OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said both schools benefited from being OVC members and expects them "to do the right thing" by fulfilling contractual obligations. She said league presidents regret filing the suit but called it necessary to enforce payment.

"To decide now that they don't have to pay the fee not only violates their contract, it is unfair to the OVC's member institutions, with whom these schools enjoyed long and mutually beneficial relationships," DeBauche added.

EKU said in a statement that it was aware of the lawsuit and disagreed with the OVC's assertions. It added, "We will articulate the merits of our position in the proper arena."

Messages left with JSU's athletic department and administration were not immediately returned.

EKU was among the OVC's founding members in 1948; JSU joined in 2003. The league has 10 remaining members.

The OVC said it reminded both schools of the exit fee obligation several months ago. They were ignored, the statement said, until both responded just before leaving that they would not pay the fees. It noted that Samford paid the required fee when it left the league.

The OVC said it has no ill will toward either school but wants both to honor their commitments.

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Updated August 3, 2021

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