Arkansas State University issued an ultimatum Monday morning to the University of Miami: If it doesn't pay for its canceled football game from the 2017 season by Feb. 15, then ASU will file a lawsuit.
In a letter that was shared with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ASU informed Miami of its demand.
The ASU and Miami athletic departments had signed a contract in May 2013 that stated the Red Wolves would play in Miami during the 2014 season and the Hurricanes would play in Jonesboro during the 2017 season.
The contract stated that if one team did not appear, the other would receive a liquidated damages payment of $650,000 by Feb. 15, 2018.
The Miami game was played, and the Jonesboro game, scheduled for Sept. 9, was canceled when Hurricane Irma was about to make landfall in Florida.
ASU athletic director Terry Mohajir reportedly offered to pay $86,000 to $88,000 for the entire Miami team and staff to fly from Miami to Memphis on a separate air charter service to ensure that Miami could travel safely to Jonesboro.
"Despite these offers, accommodations, and a number of other unilateral efforts on behalf of Arkansas State University, Miami refused to appear," the letter, signed by ASU General Counsel Brad Phelps, states.
The letter also cited Miami Coach Mark Richt, who was quoted as saying in the Sun Sentinel in South Florida: "Could we have snuck out just in time to play that game? We could have, logistically."
"The ... contract excused Miami from appearing for this game if it were 'impossible' for Miami to do so," ASU's letter said. "The facts show that it was not impossible for Miami to do so."
According to the letter, ASU Chancellor Kelly Damphousse reached out to Miami President Julio Frenk and Mohajir reached out to Miami's athletic director, Blake James, to resolve the canceled game. James reportedly said he wanted to finish the football season before discussing it further, and Mohajir agreed.
Mohajir reached out to James in early 2018, the letter states, who said the earliest Miami could schedule another game with Arkansas State would be during the 2024 season, adding that dates in 2025, 2026, 2027 and 2028. were also available. Mohajir reportedly said those dates didn't work for ASU and that "two-game agreements never stretch out to over a decade."
According to ASU, Mohajir consulted a "scheduling service" that revealed that Miami had openings in its schedules in 2020 and 2021. He reportedly asked James about those dates and "even offered that if Miami would schedule the contracted game" in that time span, ASU would buy another game at Miami.
James refused this offer, the university wrote.
"It is not a matter of Miami's inability to schedule a game against Arkansas State University in a reasonable time frame, but rather it is Miami's unwillingness to play Arkansas State University in 2020 or 2021 because it would prefer to schedule a team from the FCS," the letter states.
A letter signed by Miami Assistant General Counsel James D. Rowlee on Friday, which ASU shared with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, said Miami was willing to play a rescheduled game on Sept. 14, 2024, or Sept. 13 or 20, 2025. That document requested a response by Feb. 28 if one of the dates was acceptable.
Monday, ASU replied with its letter.
"Arkansas State University is left with no choice other than to seek damages for Miami's breach," the document states.
Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.