The Ohio Valley Conference is suing Eastern Kentucky University to force the university to pay a contractually required $1 million exit fee, the conference announced Tuesday in a news release.
In a statement released by EKU on Tuesday, the university said it did not agree with the OVC's assertions.
“We are aware of a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Valley Conference regarding EKU’s exit from the conference. We do not agree with the assertions of the conference regarding our exit. We will articulate the merits of our position in the proper arena,” the statement read.
The OVC filed a lawsuit in Franklin Court in Kentucky against EKU. The conference is also suing former member Jacksonville State University in Calhoun County Circuit Court in Alabama for the same reason.
Eastern Kentucky University left the conference which it helped to found earlier this year to join the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN.)
According to release from the OVC, EKU informed the conference on Jan. 26 the university’s intent to leave the OVC effective June 30.
According to conference’s constitution, the departure of any school from the OVC requires the payment of an exit fee. The payment of exit fees was approved by all OVC members, including EKU and JSU, and the amount of the fee is determined by the date of the notice provided.
The OVC release said since EKU provided the OVC with less than two years notice of its intent to depart the conference which makes the exit fee $1 million.
“The contract for all our members regarding exit fees is clear,” OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said in the release. “Eastern Kentucky University and Jacksonville State University agreed with the exit fees as part of the contract, and they voted in favor of those fees on multiple occasions. We expect them to honor their agreed-upon OVC commitments.”
A statement from the OVC Commissioner said the conference reminded the schools of their exit fee obligations several months ago, but those communication were ignored by EKU and JSU.
The OVC were informed EKU and JSU would not fulfill their contractual obligation to pay the exit fees right before the school’s joined the ASUN, DeBauche said in a statement.
The lawsuits are asking for a judgement enforcing EKU and JSU’s contracts with the OVC, breach of contract, and related equitable claims.
In their release, the OVC notes since exit fees were voted into the OVC constitution more than 50 years ago, no school has departed the OVC without complying with the exit fee requirement.
DeBauche said the conference regrets having to file these lawsuits, but claimed it was a necessary step.
“We are disappointed in the decision of both schools, and we expect them to do the right thing by fulfilling their contractual obligations… They have benefited from their association with the OVC and with its fellow member institutions. To decide nos 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 concluded.