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Ohio AG thinks Ohio State can sue Big Ten over football cancellation


Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch
Published 12:05 p.m. ET Sept. 10, 2020 | Updated 12:05 p.m. ET Sept. 10, 2020

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is ready to recommend that Ohio State University officials file a lawsuit seeking monetary damages from the Big Ten and member schools that voted against playing football this autumn.

A team of state lawyers studying Ohio State’s contracts with the Big Ten believe an “excellent contract claim for several tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue” can be demanded in a lawsuit, Yost told The Dispatch.

Yost, a Republican, said he has not yet discussed the filing of a potential state-court action against the Big Ten and some of its schools with Ohio State officials as conference talks continue on when – and if – to play football amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we have a cause of action” for violating contracts between the Big Ten and Ohio State and for illegal interference in a business relationship, Yost said.

“If these negotiations (over playing football) fall apart, we will be recommending legal action to our client, Ohio State University,” he said, adding his office believes the Big Ten lacked legal authority to cancel or delay the football season.

Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to not immediately play football due to the coronavirus pandemic, with only Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska voting in favor of playing despite the COVID pandemic.

Yost, an Ohio State graduate, said he has directed his lawyers to “put together a case, so if negotiations break down and the season is canceled, we are prepared to make a presentation to the board (of trustees) and the administration.”

Comment was being sought Wednesday evening from OSU administration officials. Asked for his comment on Yost’s statements, OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith provided a one-word response: “Nothing.”

A Big Ten decision to begin playing football later would cancel talk of a lawsuit, Yost said, although he expressed doubts about the conference’s legal ability to cancel non-conference games.

Asked about the possibility of pursuing a lawsuit against the Mid-American Conference over its football season cancellation, Yost said that would be examined if member schools express interest.

Ohio public universities Ohio, Toledo, Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State and Miami play football in the MAC. They also play football games against Big Ten opponents and rely on revenue sharing from those games.

Dispatch reporter Bill Rabinowitz contributed to this story.

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