SWAC Lawsuit Agsinst Urban Edge Network & HBCU League Pass+ Closed By US District Court

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An 8-month legal battle between the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Urban Edge Network, the parent company of HBCU League Pass+, has concluded. Northern District of Alabama Judge R. David Proctor closed the the SWAC’s lawsuit against Urban Edge Network.

A court document, signed by U.S. District Court Judge R. David Proctor, rendering that the case is closed.

Earlier this year, Urban Edge Network announced partnerships with Florida A&M University & Grambling State University to broadcast available sports rights and other student related content such as on-campus events and content from the Marching 100 & the World Famed Tiger Marching Band. FAMU and Grambling were even represented in NASCAR races in February & March, orchestrated via a partnership with NY Racing Partners & Grambling and Urban Edge Network.

In April, the SWAC alleged that Urban Edge’s deal to broadcast SWAC games and content was interfering with pending million dollar deals with PepsiCo & Byron Allen’s HBCUGO. SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland, as reported by HBCU Gameday, sent a memo to the Presidents and Chancellors of the SWAC stating that. “SWAC Conference games cannot be streamed or broadcasted on a national basis outside of the Conference agreements. In addition, Member Institutions cannot grant permission to other entities to broadcast games either linear or digitally on a national basis; all Conference games are restricted and can only be negotiated by the Conference Office.”

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After this memo, Urban Edge Network threatened a lawsuit citing “tortious interference” in their pending deal with PepsiCo as cause. The SWAC then filed a Contract – Other Contract lawsuit against Urban Edge Network in the Alabama Northern District Court on April 18th. In that same timespan, FAMU Athletic Director Kortne Gosha abruptly resigned from his position and the deal with Urban Edge Network and HBCU League Pass+ was terminated after an investigation. The investigation by Florida Law Firm GrayRobinson stating that Gosha didn’t have the authority to authorize PEAK Sports Management, a marketing company that partnered with FAMU in 2021 to oversee sponsorship sales and revenue, to enter into an exclusive marketing and streaming rights deal on behalf of the university. However, FAMU appeared to have known about the deal with Urban Edge Networks, as the athletics department circulated a press release in February announcing the deal. 

The findings of the investigation, obtained by WFSU Public Radio.

Grambling, however, continued to work with Urban Edge Network on broadcasting select athletic and campus events on HBCU League Pass+ as well as working alongside Urban Edge Network to secure NIL opportunities for student athletes. The ruling, rendered this afternoon, allows Grambling to continue their partnership with Urban Edge Network. The ruling also affirms the Supreme Court’s ruling on the 1984 NCAA vs. Oklahoma Board of Regents. The case allowed individual member NCAA schools to negotiate their own broadcasting rights directly with media companies. NCAA member institutions such as Notre Dame (FBS-Independent) and the University of Texas (Big 12) have inked multimillion dollar deals with media entities such as NBC/Peacock and Disney/ESPN.

The SWAC, CIAA & SIAC have designated primary rights for their athletic telecasts to ESPN. Urban Edge network has a primary rights deal with the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) and their 8 member schools. and secondary rights to select athletic events at Grambling, Benedict College, Norfolk State, Virgina University of Lynchburg, Florida Memorial, Virginia State University, Miles College and Morehouse College.

Note: HBCU Pulse is an official Streaming Partner with Urban Edge Network & HBCU League Pass+.

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