Judge dismisses OVC's lawsuit against JSU

·2 min read

Sep. 6—A Calhoun County Circuit Court judge has ruled against the Ohio Valley Conference in a lawsuit the conference filed against Jacksonville State University for failing to pay the league's early exit fee, according to court documents.

Judge Debra Jones dismissed the case without prejudice Tuesday morning. The OVC was seeking $1,015,000 million plus attorneys fees, costs and expenses.

"The judge dismissed the case based on the doctrine of State Immunity. This means that, absent a successful appeal, the OVC will have to pursue its claims against JSU at the State Board of Adjustments," JSU attorney Gregory Harley stated in an email.

The OVC is considering the option to appeal Jones' decision to the Alabama Supreme Court, OVC attorney Bruce Barze, told The Anniston Star via email.

"It is regrettable JSU has chosen to hide behind a claim of state immunity in order to avoid its contractual obligations. JSU accepted all the benefits of Conference membership without accepting any of the associated responsibilities," Barze stated in the email.

The OVC filed the suit against JSU when the school pulled out of the conference early to join the ASUN Conference last spring.

"The school resigned its membership in the OVC effective June 30, 2021, but has refused to pay the contractually specified exit fee," the OVC's complaint stated.

According to the OVC, JSU was to pay an exit fee of $1 million for leaving the league early without an adequate two-year notice — the amount to be paid half before June 2021, and the other half due by June 2022, according to court documents.

The other $15,000 was for a ticket buy-in before the 2021 OVC basketball tournament that the conference requires of member schools.

The official lawsuit was filed Aug. 3, 2021.

"The irony of the school breaching the OVC constitution is inescapable. The school has been receiving goods and services, including monetary benefits, and performing under the OVC constitution for years," the complaint said.

Barze said the "contract" for entering the league "could not be clearer," and pointed fingers at the university for improving its stadium, yet shirking its responsibilities to the league.

"JSU is happy to make two conference moves in less than three years and, in the process, pay for an $80 million stadium expansion and a $2 million-plus football coaching contract, while it simultaneously shirks the commitments it made to the OVC," Barze stated in the email.

In reference to filing a Board of Adjustments complaint, Barze said the OVC has filed that complaint; however those filings will be on hold pending any further legal action the league decides to take.

Contact Staff Writer Ashley Morrison at ashmorrison1105@gmail.com. On Twitter @AshMorrison1105.