Arkansas State University, University of Miami trade filings in ongoing dispute

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 244 views 

The University of Miami filed a motion in Craighead County Circuit Court to dismiss a breach of contract lawsuit filed by Arkansas State University. ASU responded to the dismissal motion and is still seeking $650,000 for an unplayed football game canceled Sept. 9 in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Lawyers for the Miami school claim the hurricane that struck southern Florida days after the game was scheduled to be played was a “force majeure” event and the game could not be played. The contract between the school’s had a force majeure clause. The clause relieves either school from the contractual obligations of the agreement if a circumstance beyond the control of either party arises. ASU rejects the force majeure argument.

“Contrary to UM’s false allegations, ASU has never agreed that Hurricane Irma was a force majeure event that made it impossible for UM to appear in Jonesboro. When Blake James, director of intercollegiate athletics for UM, informed Terry Mohajir, Director of intercollegiate athletics at ASU, that UM would not appear for and play the game, Mr. Mohajir offered multiple accommodations and options to keep the game as scheduled,” the response stated.

Mohajir attempted to have the game moved to Sept. 8 and offered to pay up to $88,000 for a charter flight for the Miami football team to fly into nearby Memphis. It was also noted that seven other Florida colleges and universities played games that weekend, and ESPN was willing to move the televised game to Sept. 8. Hotels could have been reserved in Jonesboro for the team if travel wasn’t possible, and ASU offered to let the team use its facilities to practice, court documents state.

The schools had a home and home series scheduled. The schools agreed to a $650,000 buyout if a canceled game couldn’t be rescheduled. Miami has open home dates in 2020 and 2021, but has opted to try to reschedule the game for 2024 or later, according to the schools. Miami has refused to pay the buyout. ASU-Jonesboro Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse talked to Miami President Dr. Julio Frenk to discuss a potential resolution. Mohajir contacted James and told him extending a two-game agreement beyond a decade would be detrimental to ASU.

“UM’s position, however, is even contradicted by its own head football coach, Mark Richt, who admitted that it was possible for UM to travel to Jonesboro and play the football game. Coach Richt told the media, ‘Could we have snuck out just in time to play that game. We could have, logistically,’” the filing stated.

In its dismissal filing, Miami argued that Miami-Dade Circuit Court had jurisdiction in the case, not Craighead County Circuit Court. ASU countered by saying the this part of the contact was performed in Arkansas, and no Florida court would have jurisdiction over ASU.

No date has been set for a trial hearing.

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