Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Maryland vs. the ACC
By Heather Dinich
At 1:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, there will be a hearing in Upper Marlboro, Md., that should provide more information about the ongoing legal dispute between Maryland and the ACC.
Maryland intends to leave the ACC and play in the Big Ten in 2014, but the ACC intends to get every penny of the league's $52 million exit fee from the Terps. As of right now, the argument is at a standstill as the courts determine where this case will be tried -- in North Carolina or Maryland. Thursday's hearing will be focused on the ACC's attempt to dismiss the suit in Maryland.
The Maryland attorney general's office has forwarded ESPN.com three documents which help provide some context to their arguments. Based on the information in those documents, here's a look at both sides:
Maryland writes that it is "seeking relief" from the ACC's intentions to "penalize the University of Maryland, College Park, its students, coaches and fans, and deny it the significant benefits of moving to the Big Ten Conference in 2014."
Maryland claims that "the ACC’s motion to dismiss is fundamentally flawed," and, "the ACC's legal arguments fare no better."
More from Maryland's Complaint:
"Through the illegal and improper conduct outlined in the Complaint, the ACC aims to send a message of deterrence to any other member school that might consider withdrawing from the conference -- any such attempts to do so will be met with harsh penalties. The ACC’s actions have resulted in the significant on-going and future damages suffered by the University.
The extensive factual allegations pleaded in the Complaint demonstrate that, if proven, the ACC’s actions constitute an illegal restraint of trade in violation of the Maryland Antitrust Act, tortiously interfere with Maryland’s contractual relationships and breach the ACC’s contractual commitments to Maryland as a member of the conference. These claims entitle Maryland to recover compensatory and punitive damages and to obtain injunctive relief against the ACC’s actions."
Maryland is claiming that the ACC is violating an antitrust law:
"Maryland’s Complaint pleads a viable antitrust claim because the ACC’s imposition of a $52 million withdrawal penalty is the direct effect of a horizontal conspiracy intended to and resulting in harm to competition. As pleaded, the withdrawal penalty constitutes an illegal restraint of trade in violation of § 11-204 of the Commercial Law Article."
THE ACC's SIDE
"The ACC’s constitutional argument is premised on a misapplication of cases applicable to truly national sports organizations and to rules of those organizations that are uniformly applied and essential to producing a nationwide product. Neither circumstance exists here."
The ACC writes that "This lawsuit violates the United States Constitution, is deficient on its merits, and is being pursued in the wrong forum. It therefore should be dismissed."
"In addition to being unconstitutional, plaintiffs' antitrust claim is deficient on its face because they have failed to plead, as is their burden, that the ACC unreasonably has restrained competition in any relevant product or geographic market or that the ACC has caused an injury to competition that is distinct from any harm that it has purportedly suffered in its individual capacity. And plaintiffs' tortious interference claim is deficient on its face because it fails in several respects to satisfy the elements of that cause of action under either Maryland or North Carolina law.
This lawsuit also should be dismissed because North Carolina is a more appropriate and convenient forum for this dispute."
The ACC makes its argument to have the case tried in North Carolina, writing that "all of the operative events took place in North Carolina, far more witnesses are located in North Carolina than any other state, and the dispute will be governed by North Carolina law."
As for Maryland's argument that these are not "truly national sports organizations," the ACC writes that:
"Simply put, sports leagues like the ACC are different from most commercial actors because their very nature requires that they be regulated on a national level if they are to exist at all."
Thursday's hearing won't tell us whether or not Maryland will have to pay up, but it is another step in what should be a long process.