The Ohio Valley Conference has filed a lawsuit against Eastern Kentucky University for the required exit fee of one million dollars, the OVC announced on Tuesday in a news release.

EKU announced its plan to depart from the OVC after more than 70 years in the conference earlier this year and officially joined the ASUN Conference on July 1. Jacksonville State University, which also left the OVC to join the ASUN Conference, is also being sued by the OVC.

According to the release, EKU informed the OVC on Jan. 26, 2021, and JSU on Feb. 16, 2021, of its intent to depart the conference, effective June 30, 2021.

According to the OVC’s constitution, which is a contract, the departure of any school from the OVC requires the payment of an exit fee. The release stated that the payment of exit fees was approved by all OVC members, including EKU and JSU. According to the OVC, EKU and JSU have now refused to pay the exit fees.

The OVC has sued EKU in Franklin Circuit Court in Kentucky and JSU in Calhoun County Circuit Court in Alabama.

In the release, OVC Commissioner Beth 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 one million dollars each.

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

According to the release, “Eastern Kentucky University has threatened the OVC with financial harm if the OVC chose to enforce the exit fee provision.”

“We are 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. 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,” DeBauche said. 

In an email statement, EKU Athletics stated, “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.”

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