OVC suing EKU over non-payment of exit fees

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By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — The Ohio Valley Conference has filed a lawsuit against Eastern Kentucky University and Jacksonville State to enforce payment of “contractually required exit fees” for departing the conference.

The conference filed separate suits in Franklin Circuit Court (Kentucky) and the Circuit Court of Calhoun County (Alabama) on Tuesday. 

Eastern informed the OVC on January 26, and JSU on February 16, 2021, of their intent to depart the conference, effective June 30, 2021. According to the conference’s constitution, which is a contract, 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. EKU and JSU have now refused to pay the fees., according to the league.

In a release, DeBauche said that the amount of the exit fee is determined by the date of the notice provided. Since EKU’s and JSU’s notices were provided less than two years before the planned exit, the fee is set at $1 million for each school. 

“The contract for all our members regarding exit fees is clear,” OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said. “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.”

The Commissioner added she was “disappointed in the decision of both schools, and we expect them to do the right thing by fulfilling their contractual obligations.”

“EKU has been a member of the OVC since the conference’s founding in 1948 and JSU since 2003,” she said. “They have benefited from their association with the OVC and with its fellow member institutions. 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.”

Story will be updated.