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Commentary: Maryland, ACC in midst of ugly divorce

I've never been divorced. But - and for transparency's sake - I've never been married, either.

I've gone through a few break-ups; been with the wrong girl; and, been the wrong guy. But, marriage and divorce are different. Getting married involves certain legal constructs, and getting divorced carries with it certain legal consequences.

Nothing says "I almost love you" like a prenuptial agreement. Though such agreements, if enforceable, and if inclusive of provisions for the division of property, spousal support and child custody in the event of subsequent divorce on the grounds of e.g. adultery can be effective and efficient, in large part, because they are drafted in the absence of the vitriol, hurt feelings, bitterness, spite and scorch-the-earth hatred that are the lifeblood of the beach houses and retirement accounts of divorce lawyers.

Divorce brings out the worst in people. And, the worst part of divorce is its negative impact on the children involved.

For the most part, people don't grow up, they just grow older. Immaturity still comes out to play, regardless of age. The cycle of hate-driven hurt that follows being spurned by that previously special someone always ends badly, for everyone - especially for the otherwise innocent children who are so often, and so sadly, used as pawns in a childish game played by adults.

The University of Maryland and the ACC are in the midst of a bitter divorce that appears to only be growing uglier.

Both parties signed a Prenup of sorts. In 2012, the ACC's member schools, including Maryland, signed an agreement increasing the would-be exit fee for a school wishing to leave the ACC for another conference to $52 million.

Then, Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, spurned it's longtime lover for an age-old reason - money. Maryland left the ACC for the promise of more money as a member of the Big Ten conference; reasoning that the increased revenues would allow the university to provide a better experience to and for its student-athletes.

Like most greedy, selfish, self-interested, cheating lovers who aren't mature enough to just be honest, up-front and forthright, Maryland refused to pay the very same exit fee that they'd agreed to put into place just months earlier. The ACC sued.

The ACC also withheld roughly $20 million in revenue sharing from Maryland; holding the same as an offset against the exit fee due and owing, which Maryland was refusing to pay.

Last week, Maryland filed a counter-claim against the ACC for $157 million, asserting that the ACC and certain of its member schools "contacted a Big Ten university in an attempt by the ACC to recruit at least two Big Ten schools to leave the Big Ten and join the ACC" which Maryland goes on to argue constitute "illegal, retaliatory, and anti-competitive conduct (that) threatens irreparable harm to Maryland and Maryland's student-athletes, student and alumni fan base, faculty, athletic competitiveness and reputation."

If Maryland wants to suckle at the teet of a new sugar mama/daddy, well, good riddance to bad rubbish (and kudos to Coach K who pointed out that "if they really were Duke's or UNC's rival they wouldn't be leaving the ACC"). But, Maryland should man-up and pay the exit fee that it voted for.

Like most selfish parents, Maryland is hiding behind the pretext of making a money grab for the sake of the kids. But, and like most NCAA institutions under the current unpaid labor/revenue non-sharing model, currently in place, pretext is all it is.

The real "anti-competitive conduct (that) threatens irreparable harm to Maryland and Maryland's student-athletes, student and alumni fan base, faculty, athletic competitiveness and reputation" isn't being carried-out by the ACC. It's being done by Maryland, to Maryland, for Maryland's sake; for the money.

That is - the added time away from classes for its student-athletes, and inaccessibility to away games for Maryland's student and alumni fan base, not to mention the will-be lack of athletic competitiveness of Maryland's football team in the Big Ten, are all directly attributable to Maryland's self-made/inflicted choice to leave the ACC to compete in a (football-rich/driven) league with teams as far west as Minnesota.

Maryland chose to leave. Maryland is choosing to strain it's student-athletes and alienate its fan base by having the bulk of its away games in locations only accessible by lengthy flights rather than by road trips.

The silver lining for ACC fans may be that the ACC will get the last laugh when Maryland, whether it ultimately is adjudged to have to pay the $52 million exit fee or not, is forced by its new lover/sugar daddy to spend e.g. $125 million of its new revenues to construct a hockey arena because, well, hockey is big in the Big Ten, too.

Matt Laczkowski, a former Division I basketball player, is an attorney and a columnist writing from Westminster. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or coach@with-character.com.

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