Sports Law Blog
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Friday, January 28, 2011
 
No Listen, No Money: Disenchanted Donor to UConn Athletics wants his $3 Million Back

Everyone knows that big money boosters influence athletic departments at big-time sports schools.

But what happens if a booster who gives a combined $7 million to a school feels as if his "suggestions" are being ignored by the school's athletic director?

Meet Robert Burton, a Greenwich CT-based printing industry executive who wants a $3 million donation returned from UConn. A leading reason for his demand is that he feels that he was denied an opportunity to comment on the school's football coaching search. He claims that he was blown off by the school's Athletic Director, Jeff Hathaway. Paul Caron of Tax Prof Blog has more and so does Dan Fitzgerald of Connecticut Sports Law.

I have 3 thoughts on this controversy:

1) To answer a question that some people are asking: unless Burton attached stipulations to his gift to the school, it's unlikely that he'll be able to get the money back. He probably already knows that. I suspect an alternate "victory" for him would be to embarrass the school and Athletic Director Hathaway, and to discourage other boosters and prospective boosters from contributing money to UConn (especially those boosters who would contribute with an expectation of gaining access in exchange).

2) Marc Isenberg had a good line about this dispute: "The unstated rules of boostering are now written."

3) While Burton is being criticized for claiming a bargained-for exchange between his donation and his ability to influence UConn athletics, and for trying to now take his gift back, I wonder if UConn and particularly Athletic Director Hathaway bear some responsibility, too.

After-all, if a school is going to accept an enormous gift from a donor whom the school presumably knows is only donating to have influence over the school's athletic program, then the school shouldn't later deny that donor a chance to share his thoughts. It wasn't like Burton was donating to help fund a new science building while having a passing interest in the sports program; he was donating to be a major player in UConn athletics. Don't take his money if that isn't going to happen.

Burton says in his letter that he wasn't looking for veto power over the hiring decision (which would have been an unreasonable request), only a chance to provide comments on the candidates. Would it have been that hard to let him comment and then give him the courtesy of listening?

Along those lines, isn't an informal duty of an athletic director to ensure that significant alums and boosters are treated well? It seems that if Hathaway had granted Burton a half hour meeting or even just a good phone conversation, it might have satisfied Burton's craving for influence, avoided this controversy, and preserved good relations with a generous donor.

Thursday, January 27, 2011
 
Sonny Vaccaro to speak at the University of San Francisco School of Law

Giuliana Garcia, Co-President of the University of San Francisco Sports & Entertainment Law Association, has let me know of an event next week that will surely be of interest to those in the Bay area: Sonny Vaccaro will be speaking at USF Law School on college sports and how college athletes are treated by the NCAA.

Here is Giuliana's message:

My student group, the USF Sports & Entertainment Law Association (SELA) is having Mr. Vaccaro come speak on the "business" of college sports on Tuesday February 1 at 5pm. As Mr. Vaccaro is prominently involved in recent lawsuits between student-athletes and the NCAA, such as the O'Bannon case, he will be coming to USF to speak about his experiences in these lawsuits, and talk about his viewpoints on how the NCAA needs to be transformed to better support student-athletes.

This event is being organized both by the Sports & Entertainment Law Association, as well as the graduate Sport Management Program at USF.

Should be a great event. More information, click on the flyer image above or contact Giuliana at giuliana.r.garcia[at]gmail.com.

 
Networking Event

The Sports Lawyers Association is hosting a great networking event on February 2, 2011 at 6pm at the Prudential Center before and during the Nets-76ers game. Jeff Gewirtz, the CLO of the NETs, and Charles Mierswa, the CFO of the Nets, will be giving a brief lecture during the event. This is a great opportunity for people in the New York area to meet Jeff and Charles and a variety of other people working in the sports industry.

Here are the details:


 
Shaquille O’Neal Delivers Sports Law Lecture at Harvard Law School

Boston Celtics center and future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal recently spoke at Harvard Law School Professor Peter Carfagna's sports law class. He was accompanied by his agent, Perry Rogers, and by Celtics Assistant General Manager & Associate Counsel Mike Zarren.

Shaq is no stranger to higher education. After playing 8 seasons in the NBA, he completed his college degree from Louisiana State University in 2000 (and, in doing so, helped to show that players who leave school early can always go back and earn a degree). Five years later, Shaq earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix. He is now a handful of credits away from earning a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development, with aspirations for running for Sheriff in Central Florida once he retires from the league.

Shaq spoke to the law students about managing his brand and publicity rights issues, among other topics. Jill Greenfield of Harvard Law School's communications office has the story on Shaq's visit. Here are some excerpts:
* * *

In fact, O’Neal’s management of his brand began well before he signed an NBA contract or any endorsement deals. When he was in high school, he created his own emblem based on his dunk style and trademarked it as the DUNKMAN, in case he ever got a shoe deal in the future.

* * *

In response to Carfagna’s question about how his decisions have changed as he nears the end of his playing career, O’Neal discussed his evolving approach to basketball and how it affects his role on the Boston Celtics.

“When I first started playing basketball, I got all the blame when we lost, like a CEO. So I had to put myself in CEO mode and say, ‘If I’m going to get blamed, this is how we have to do things,’” O’Neal said.

“Now I’m in a consultant role. It would not have been advantageous for me to come here and try to take over the team at age 38 when we already have these good players. I already took care of my “me time.” I’ve been healthy and have done a lot. I have my championships. I’m retired as a CEO. Now I'm a consultant – my teammates know that if they need me, I’m right over here.”

* * *
To read the rest, click here. To read Geoff and my previous posts about Shaq being a deputy sheriff, click here.

 
Sports Law Career Opportunity

For those looking to break into the sports law industry, the NBA is currently hiring an in-house legal counsel to work on matters relating to the WNBA and NBA D-League. In addition to traditional legal duties, the position would also entail some basketball-related functions such as managing each league's player draft. For more information, check out the job ad available here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
 
MMAdness Postponed...

Due to inclement weather in New York City, tonight's scheduled "MMAdness-Issues Surrounding the Legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in NY" forum at the New York County Lawyers Association building is postponed. Please check back for the new date.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
 
Quebecois Roulette?

Should Tommy Morrison be Licensed to Box in Quebec if He Continues to Refuse HIV Testing?

Tommy (The Duke) Morrison, 48-3 (42 KOs), once one of the most exciting heavyweight contenders in the world between his all-American looks, explosive punch, and questionable chin, made headlines this past week when he announced that he will not submit to HIV and hepatitis testing in advance of a possible February 25, 2011 bout in Montreal against journeyman Eric Barrak. The reason that Morrison’s position is troublesome is plain to anyone who is familiar with Morrison’s history. Starting in 1996, Morrison was out of the ring for nearly 11 years after reportedly testing HIV positive in advance of a scheduled match in Nevada against Arthur (Stormy) Weathers. Some probably anticipated that the next time the boxing world would hear anything about Morrison would be after he eventually succumbed to AIDS.

Morrison, however, miraculously persevered and returned to ring on February 22, 2007 with a second round TKO of John Castle after West Virginia granted him a boxing license. He fought again nearly a year later, this time in Mexico, and scored a third-round TKO of Matt Weishaar. In the second incarnation of his career, Morrison has alleged that he is not, in fact, HIV positive, and may have never been. Indeed, Morrison is quoted as saying “I’m not going to submit to a test that’s not going to tell me anything[]” in connection with the testing order by the Quebec Boxing and Gaming Commission. The implication of that quote is that Morrison is 100% confident that he is free of HIV. But whether or not any such test would “tell [him] anything” about his HIV status is beside the point. When a commission mandates a testing regimen, it is acting on behalf of, and in furtherance of the objectives of, the government that created it. One can imagine, therefore, the precedent that would be created if someone such as Morrison were empowered by a commission to pick and choose which pre-licensing requirements he wished to comply with before boxing in a given jurisdiction. A quick look at the potential confusion that could ensue in Quebec follows...

For the full article, please go to this link.

 
Seton Hall University School of Law’s Annual Sports & Entertainment Law Symposium

On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, Seton Hall University School of Law and the Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law will be hosting its Annual Sports and Entertainment Law Symposium. The symposium will address current sports and entertainment issues, with a specific focus on the professional and ethical dilemmas confronting attorneys representing athletes and entertainers. 3 CLE credits will be awarded for full day attendance (the symposium will be from 4:30 to 9:00 p.m.). I look forward to joining Alan Milstein, Marc Edelman, and other speakers there.

Here are the details:


KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Time/Location Description/Information
TBA Jeffrey B. Gewirtz
Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer
New Jersey Nets Basketball/Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment

PANEL 1 — TRIAL PUBLICITY

This panel will focus on Rule 3.6 of the ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
Time/Location Description/Information
TBA Christopher D. Adams, Esq.
Member — Walder, Hayden & Brogan, P.A.
TBA Darren Del Sardo, Esq.
Partner — Damico, Del Sardo & Montanari, L.L.C.
TBA Ellen C. Marshall, Esq.
Of Counsel — Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis L.L.P.
TBA Michael McCann, Esq.
Professor — Vermont Law School

PANEL 2 — LABOR CONCERNS IN SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT

This panel will concentrate on the labor concerns surrounding sports leagues and the entertainment industry.
Time/Location Description/Information
TBA Jessica Berman, Esq.
Associate Counsel — National Hockey League
TBA Ann Burdick, Esq.
Senior Legal Counsel — Writers Guild of America East
TBA Marc Edelman, Esq.
Assistant Professor — Barry University's Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law
TBA Alan C. Milstein, Esq.
Member/Shareholder — Sherman, Silverstein, Kohl, Rose & Podolsky, P.A.


For information on attending, click here. Excellent work by Elizabeth Blakely & Emily Battersby, the Symposium Editors, on putting the event together.

 
A Few Good Links

* Barry Bonds received some bad news last Friday, as Judge Susan Illston ruled that other big league players who were clients of Greg Anderson will be able to testify for the prosecution in Bonds's case. I write about Judge Illston's ruling in a column for SI.com. In the column, I predict that other players testifying will increase the chances of Bonds testifying in his own defense. Paul Elias also writes about Judge Illston's decision in a piece for the Associated Press.

* In looking at the concussion issue in the NFL, Ben McGrath of The New Yorker asks the most important question: Does Football Have a Future?

* One person who seems to be banking on football having a future--at least in the near future--is 48-year-old running back Hershel Walker, who is pondering a comeback. There is no "age ceiling" in the NFL (and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act bars discrimination of persons over 40), so if Walker proves good enough, he'll have a chance to play again.

* Are NFL players really united as March 4, the day the CBA expires, approaches? Not so if we look to Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who had some choice words about the negotiation tactics of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

* Interesting article from the Associated Press on Kwame Brown, the much ridiculed number 1 overall pick of the 2001 NBA Draft. While Brown has been a disappointment throughout most of his career and is now on his fifth NBA team, he seems to have turned a corner this season on the Charlotte Bobcats, with better numbers and playing with much more confidence. It's worth noting that while Brown has clearly not lived up to the hype of being the number one overall pick, he's still only 28 years old and, particularly given the dearth of quality NBA centers, he presumably could play another 6 or 7 seasons, perhaps at a relatively high level, too. Also, going into the season, Brown had earned $50 million over his NBA career. Not too shabby for a 28-year-old supposed "failure".

Saturday, January 22, 2011
 
New Sports Law Scholarship

Recently published scholarship includes:
Parker Allred, Note, From the BCS to the BS: why “championship” must be removed from the Bowl Championship Series, 2010 UTAH LAW REVIEW 183

Jessica K. Baranko, Comment, It’s my name and mine alone: how Chad Ocho Cinco affects the right of publicity, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 463 (2010)

Luke P. Breslin, Comment, Reclaiming the glory in the ‘sport of kings’ — uniformity is the answer, 20 SETON HALL JOURNAL OF SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW 297 (2010)

Dustin E. Buehler and Steve P. Calandrillo, Baseball's moral hazard: law, economics, and the designated hitter rule, 90 BOSTON UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 2083 (2010)

David S. Caudill, Sports and entertainment agents and agent-attorneys: discourses and conventions concerning crossing jurisdictional and professional borders, 43 AKRON LAW REVIEW 697 (2010)

Walter T. Champion and Danyahel Norris, Why not row to the Bahamas instead of Miami: the conundrum that awaits Cuban elite baseball players who seek asylum and the economic Nirvana of free agency, 9 VIRGINIA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 219 (2010)

Ross E. Davies, It’s no game: the practice and process of the law in baseball and vice versa, 20 SETON HALL SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 249 (2010)

Nick DeSiato, Silencing the crowd: regulating free speech in professional sports facilities, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 411 (2010)

Ed Edmonds, At the brink of free agency: creating the foundation for the Messersmith-McNally decision — 1968-1975, 34 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY LAW JOURNAL 565 (2010)

John Frega, Comment, The Performance Rights Act of 2009 and the Local Radio Freedom Act: will performance kill the radio star?, 20 SETON HALL JOURNAL OF SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW 333-369 (2010).

Jonathan D. Gillerman, Comment, Calling their shots: miffed Minor Leaguers, the steroid scandal, and examining the use of section 1 of the Sherman Act to hold MLB accountable, 73 ALBANY LAW REVIEW 541-573 (2010)

B. Glenn George, Forfeit: opportunity, choice, and discrimination theory under Title IX, 22 YALE JOURNAL OF LAW AND FEMINISM 1 (2010)

Timothy Patrick Hayden, Can summer training camp practices land NFL head coaches in hot water?, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 441 (2010)

Noel H. Johnson, Book Note, Reviewing John H. Minan and Kevin Cole, The Little White Book of Baseball Law, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 657 (2010)

Lance C. Kearns, Book Note, Reviewing Kenneth L. Shropshire, Negotiate Like the Pros, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 663 (2010)

Kristen E. Knauf, Comment, If you build it, will they stay? An examination of state-of-the-art clauses in NFL stadium leases, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 479 (2010)

Robert H. Lattinville, Robert A. Boland and Bennett Speyer, Labor pains: the effect of a work stoppage in the NFL on its coaches, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 335 (2010)

Michael Levinson, (F)linging (I)ndispensable (F)reedoms (A)side: why FIFA’s “6+5” will not survive, 17 INTERNTATIONAL & COMPARATIVE LAW QUARTERLY 191 (2010)

Christina M. Locke, Does anti-paparazzi mean anti-press?: First Amendment implications of privacy legislation for the newsroom, 20 SETON HALL JOURNAL OF SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW 227 (2010)

Richard H. McLaren, Twenty-five years of the Court of Arbitration for Sport: a look in the rear-view mirror, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 305 (2010)

Susan McAleavey, Note, Spendthrift trust: an alternative to the NBA age rule, 84 ST. JOHN’S LAW REVIEW 279 (2010)

Matthew J. Mitten, James L. Musselman and Bruce W. Burton, Targeted reform of commercialized intercollegiate athletics, 47 SAN DIEGO LAW REVIEW 779 (2010)

Matt Mullarkey, Note, For the love of the game: a historical analysis and defense of final offer arbitration in Major League Baseball, 9 VIRGINIA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 234 (2010)

Jack P. Sahl, Entertainment law—the specter of malpractice claims and disciplinary actions, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 377 (2010)

David Tan, Affective transfer and the appropriation of commercial value: a cultural analysis of the right of publicity, 9 VIRGINIA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 272 (2010)

David F. Tavella, Duty of care to spectators at sporting events: a unified theory, 5 FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 181 (2010)

Amy Tracy, Note, Athletic discipline for non-sport player misconduct: the role of college athletic department and professional league discipline and the legal system’s penalties and remedies, 9 VIRGINIA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 254 (2010)

Leslie E. Wong, Comment, Our blood, our sweat, their profit: Ed O’Bannon takes on the NCAA for infringing on the former student-athlete’s right of publicity, 42 TEXAS TECH LAW REVIEW 1069 (2010)

Kevin J. Worthen, The NCAA and religion: insights about non-state governance from Sunday play and end zone celebrations, 2010 Utah L. Rev. 123

Kate Zdrojeski, International ice hockey: player poaching and contract dispute, 42 CASE WESTERN RESERVE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 775 (2010)

2009 Annual Survey: Recent Developments in Sports Law, 20 MARQUETTE SPORTS LAW REVIEW 497 (2010)

Friday, January 21, 2011
 
Public Forum: MMAdness - Issues Surrounding the Legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in NY : Update

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 Location: 14 Vesey Street, New York, New York

Time:
6:00pm

Speakers:


* Joseph M. DeGuardia, Esq., owner of Star Boxing, a boxing promotional company, and president of the Boxing Promoters Association;

* Michael DiMaggio, Esq., Collins, McDonald & Gann, P.C.;

* Kurt Emhoff, Esq., attorney, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and licensed boxing manager;

* Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq., licensed boxing manager and Chair, Entertainment, Media, Intellectual Property and Sports Law Committee's (EMIPS) Sports Law Subcommittee of NYCLA; and

* David N. Weinraub, Esq., managing partner, Brown & Weinraub, PLLC, lobbyist for the UFC.


Panelists will discuss the legal and regulatory issues relating to the legalization of mixed martial arts in New York, as well as its potential economic impact if it were legalized.

Sponsor: EMIPS Committee
FREE

RSVP: dlamb@nycla.org


 
Catching up with Links

* I have a Question/Answer for Sports Illustrated on collusion charges filed by the NFLPA against the NFL. I talk about the quality of NFLPA evidence showing collusion and how the NFL can defend against that evidence.

* Brian Baxter of American Lawyer also writes about the collusion charges and has some interesting insights on the law firms and lawyers involved.

* What's going to happen in today's Barry Bonds hearing on the admissibility of various pieces of evidence? Paul Elias of the Associated Press examines the key issues at stake.

* Should the University of Texas have its own cable channel, which ESPN is paying Texas $300 million over the next 20 years to distribute, when the channel will primarily feature sports played in an "amateur" sports association? The channel will also show high school sports. Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated wonders about the potential conflicts of interest, including the recruiting advantages it gives UT over Texas high school players who are featured on the UT channel.

* There's a lot of good stuff over at Sports Agent Blog. If you haven't read that blog, I strongly recommend you check it out.

* The NFL's Personal Conduct Policy empowers Commissioner Roger Goodell to regulate any concduct that he deems detrimental to the league. Should thrash-talking that doesn't have any obscenities or discriminatory language really be within his purview, though? Joe Henderson of the Tampa Tribune wonders about that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011
 
Does lack of real insurance drive players to NFL?

With a record number 56 juniors declaring for the NFL draft this week people begin the debate of who made a good decision and who made a mistake in giving up their collegiate eligibility. Further confusing the situation is the uncertain labor future given the expiring CBA making some form of work stoppage a distinct possibility.

What isn’t discussed is the lack of true insurance for many student-athletes to protect their financial futures should they return for another year of college football. While the NCAA created the Exceptional Student Disability Insurance (ESDI) Program in 1990 to allow student-athletes with pro potential in football, baseball, ice hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball, an opportunity to obtain insurance the program is far less valuable than meets the eye.

In football a student-athlete must be predicted to be a first or second round draft pick and the maximum coverage allowed under this policy is $ 5 million. Furthermore this policy, and only under certain conditions, allows the student-athletes to obtain a loan against their future earnings to cover the premium (about $ 8,000 per million of coverage).

While the aforementioned requirements may be reasonable, what is of major concern is that the policy only covers “permanent total disability.” Thus under this policy a star player who is seriously injured during a game and sees their draft prospects plummet from a top 5 pick to free agent stats because they aren’t “permanently disabled” collects nothing.

True “loss of value” coverage is offered by insurance carriers whereby a player projected to be a top ten pick that suffers an injury but manages to continue playing at a slightly lower level and gets drafted in the fourth round collects on the gap in compensation between their anticipated early first round and their actual fourth round salaries. As one would expect the premiums for such coverage are tremendously high. After much debate in the fall of 2010 the NCAA finally relented and allows student-athletes the ability to obtain such coverage, where they miss the boat is that they prohibit student-athletes and their families the ability to get loans based on future earnings to pay for these premiums.

As a result, the ability for an elite college football player to insure against an injury that doesn’t qualify as total disability but does hamper their pro potential are priced outside of their means. Something the NCAA could and should permit. Thus, it is not surprising to continue to see the flow of college players making the jump to the NFL earlier than they may otherwise.

For an outstanding piece on this subject please read “The Legal & Business Aspects of Disability Insurance in Professional and College Sports” written by Glenn Wong and Chris Deubert.

The NCAA Exceptional Disability Insurance policy can be found at this link.

 
Welcoming Warren Zola as a Guest Blogger

We're thrilled that Warren Zola will be a guest blogger on Sports Law Blog. Warren is Chair of Boston College's Professional Sports Counseling Panel. He is also an Assistant Dean at Boston College, a sports business and law professor and a sports attorney. Check out his post above titled Does Lack of Real Insurance Drive Players to NFL?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
 
New Sports Illustrated Column Previewing Barry Bonds Trial

I have a new SI.com column that previews the upcoming Barry Bonds trial, which is scheduled to begin on March 21. Here's an excerpt:

* * *
. . . [P]rosecutors have signaled an interest in calling [Greg] Anderson to the stand, knowing that he would once again refuse to testify and therefore be placed in contempt of court. Prosecutors believe that a jury would interpret Anderson's refusal as a sign that Bonds knowingly lied under oath. Attorneys for Bonds are seeking to prevent prosecutors from deploying that strategy, and Judge Illston will have to determine whether prosecutors' calling Anderson to the stand with no expectation of him appearing would be more probative of Bonds's guilt or innocence or more prejudicial to Bonds, and disruptive of the proceedings.

Prosecutors also intend to call to the stand witnesses who are expected to testify that either Bonds told them of using steroids or that they saw him receive injections at the hands of Anderson. Kimberly Bell, Bonds' former girlfriend, and Bonds' former Giants teammate Bobby Estalella, are expected to claim that Bonds admitted in conversations that he used illegal performance-enhancers. Kathy Hoskins, Bonds' former assistant and the sister of Bonds' longtime friend/business manager Steve Hoskins, is apparently willing to testify that she saw Anderson inject Bonds. Such a statement would contradict Bonds' sworn testimony that no one except his doctor ever injected him with anything.

Also admissible, at least as of now, would be a portion of a recorded conversation purportedly between Steve Hoskins and Anderson, in which Anderson tells Hoskins that he injected Bonds with a performance-enhancing substance. Bonds' attorneys have requested that Judge Illston exclude the entire conversation, on grounds that Judge Illston's previous ruling requires that Anderson testify in order for him to be referenced.

Even if admissible, witness testimonies and recorded conversations would be subject to intense cross-examination by Bonds' attorneys, who would likely question witnesses' financial and legal motivations as well as their consistency of facts and recollection of specific detail from events that occurred a decade ago. Bonds's attorneys would also emphasize that conviction of perjury requires that the jury conclude, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Bonds knowingly lied under oath. If the government's case boils down to Bonds's words against those of witnesses about conversations and observances from years ago, it may prove difficult for jurors to lack any reasonable doubt.

* * *

To read the rest, click here.

 
Are the NFL Playoffs really better than the BCS?

We spent a lot of time debating the legality and merits of the BCS on our blog, but is the BCS actually better than the NFL playoffs as a mechanism for determining which is the best team?

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated asks that question. Here is an excerpt:

Is a playoff really MORE FAIR? What does fair even mean? This year in college football, the BCS system had Oregon play Auburn for a trophy they called the national championship trophy. This left out other very good teams, particularly undefeated TCU. This wasn’t fair. There was much griping about it, and rightfully so. It is absurd and somewhat arrogant to believe that we can use our eyes and our computer systems and our innate sense of the game to look at more than 100 Division I football teams playing somewhat self-determined schedules and simply pick the two best teams. The flaws in the system are obvious.

But aren’t the playoff flaws obvious too? This year in the NFL, the playoff system included a seven-win team and took one 10-6 wild-card team while leaving two other 10-6 teams at home. The system made a 12-win team and two 11-win teams go on the road for their first game while three teams with 10 or fewer wins (including the NFL’s first seven-win playoff team) played home games. This year, the NFL rewarded New England and Atlanta for their 14- and 13-win seasons by giving them an extra week to heal and homefield advantage. This seems like a seismic advantage. But is it really? We cannot argue that they promptly lost convincingly — making that one loss much more important than their stellar 16-game seasons. We cannot argue that 12 of the last 24 bye teams have lost their first week.

To read the rest, click here.

 
Scorecasting: The Hidden Influcnes Behind How Sports and Played and Games are Won

Howard had a good post a few days ago on a Sports Illustrated article by Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz on the causes of home-field advantages in sports. Howard relates their article to the umpire-judge analogy, a favorite topic on this blog.

If you're interested in reading more about Jon and Tobias's work, you can now purchase their book on Amazon: Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won. I haven't read it yet, but I saw Jon and Tobias present on their book while it was a work-in-progress at last year's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and it sounded awesome.

I also noticed these very encouraging reader reviews on Amazon:
This latest addition in the Freakonomics-driven behavioral economics genre is probably the best. It is Scorecasting and to a sports fan it is a can't-put-down type of book. The book is written extremely well with a mixture of famous sporting anecdotes and hard statistics that include research of the authors and others.

Some of the eye-opening subject include:

1. very solid evidence that umpires bias games - however what is interesting is the bias is not random. The bias tells a story.
2. the subject of home-field advantage was mesmerizing. Turns out not at all what sports pundits tells us are true or at least not in the way you might think so.
3. incentives lie at the heart of the Chicago Cubs dismal century.
4. great use of numbers to show how desperate baseball players are to have a batting average of at least 0.300.
5. a look into why some stats are not telling us all we need to know (i.e. blocked shot stats in basketball).
6. why don't football coaches go for it on 4th down when it is a statistically correct move?

Turns out that psychology (namely loss aversion) and incentives dictate a lot of sports decision making . . . Great, fast read. Highly recommended.

* * *

[From another customer review]:

Some quick examples from chapters I enjoyed:

Why you should (almost) never punt in football, including an example of a coach who followed the philosophy to a state title. Also, why most coaches still punt, in spite of the evidence.

Why Tim Duncan's 149 blocked shots are more valuable than Dwight Howard's 232 (Answer: Duncan tends to block the ball to his teammates, Howard tends toward the spectacular swat that goes into the 4th row...then back to the other team.)

The incredible differences in strike zones when comparing a 3-0 count to a 0-2 count. (Hint: umps expand the zone in the former, shrink the zone in the latter, allowing the hitter to determine the outcome)

Monday, January 17, 2011
 
Sports and Recretional Law Association Conference March 3-5 in Savannah, Georgia

The Sport and Recreation Law Association will be holding its 24th annual conference from March 3rd to 5th in Savannah Georgia. The conference features peer-reviewed presentations on many salient topics involving sports and recreation law. Topics include issues involving personal injury liability, risk management, high school and collegiate athletics, products liability, Title IX, First Amendment, intellectual property. Attendees include professors, attorneys, athletic directors, risk management specialists and students.

Conference registration is available online. The website is srlaweb.org.

I have attended SRLA conferences for the last decade and found the topics presented involved subjects not always discussed in law school settings. And, socially, SRLA members are a great group of people.

For more information, contact Dr. Linda Schoonmaker at The Citadal. Her e-mail is: Linda.schoonmaker@citadel.edu.


Sunday, January 16, 2011
 
N. Jeremi Duru's Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL

Our colleague and friend Jeremi Duru, a professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law, is the author of an outstanding and timely new book: Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL (with forward by Tony Dungy).

Here is the description:
Two days before Super Bowl XLI in 2007, the game's two opposing head coaches posed with the trophy one of them would hoist after the contest. It was a fairly unremarkable event, except that both coaches were African American--a fact that was as much of a story as the game itself.

As Jeremi Duru reveals in Advancing the Ball, this unique milestone resulted from the work of a determined group of people whose struggles to expand head coaching opportunities for African Americans ultimately changed the National Football League. Since the league's desegregation in 1946, opportunities had grown plentiful for African Americans as players but not as head coaches--the byproduct of the NFL's old-boy network and lingering stereotypes of blacks' intellectual inferiority. Although Major League Baseball and the NBA had, over the years, made progress in this regard, the NFL's head coaches were almost exclusively white up until the mid-1990s.

Advancing the Ball chronicles the campaign of former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman John Wooten to right this wrong and undo decades of discriminatory head coach hiring practices--an initiative that finally bore fruit when he joined forces with attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran. Together with a few allies, the triumvirate galvanized the NFL's African American assistant coaches to stand together for equal opportunity and convinced the league to enact the "Rooney Rule," which stipulates that every team must interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a new head coach. In doing so, they spurred a movement that would substantially impact the NFL and, potentially, the nation.

Featuring an impassioned foreword by Coach Tony Dungy, Advancing the Ball offers an eye-opening, first-hand look at how a few committed individuals initiated a sea change in America's most popular sport and added an extraordinary new chapter to the civil rights story.
I had the chance to review Jeremi's book, and was extremely impressed. My comments, along those of several others, are on the book cover:
"My personal journey of success would have been much more difficult if not for the sacrifices of many that blazed my trail. The Fritz Pollard Alliance created a highway for expanded opportunities for African Americans, which are chronicled in this fascinating and historic book."--Warren Moon, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback

"An incredibly interesting and enlightening read. This book should be required reading for any level of sports enthusiast, as it explains so much about the complex intersection of sport and race. Without knowing this story, you simply cannot understand the evolution of sport over the past 50 years."--Woodie Dixon, Jr., General Counsel to the Pac-10 Conference and former General Counsel to the Kansas City Chiefs

"Advancing the Ball provides a hopeful message, with engaging discussion of how policies can be instituted to correct patterns of unfairness and injustice."--Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated Legal Analyst, and Director of the Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute

"This excellent book is a must for fans of football and other sports, as well as for those with a passion for racial justice. Professor Duru offers us a thoughtful and engaging perspective on the evolution of equal treatment in professional football."--Paul C. Weiler, Professor, Harvard Law School, and Creator of Harvard's Sports and the Law
Advancing The Ball can be purchased on Amazon and Oxford University Press's website. Whether you agree or disagree with book, you'll find it to be a provocative and thoughtful read.

Saturday, January 15, 2011
 
Home-field advantage and the umpire analogy

An article by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim in the new Sports Illustrated (I cannot find it on-line for some reason) examines the cause of home-field advantage in sports. If the study is empirically sound (and I want to down with some empiricists to help me figure out if it is), the results are groundbreaking. Moskowitz and Wertheim argue that home-field advantage is mostly explained by official bias, influenced by a combination of the closeness of the game and the game situation; the home crowd (size, loudness, proximity, and intensity); and limited attention to, or accountabiltiy for, particular decisions. Read the whole thing if you can get it (or it eventually comes on-line).

Briefly, officials conform their calls to social pressure created by the home crowd. Officials use crowd noise  to help them resolve uncertainty in making a call, resulting in more calls going the way the home crowd wants them to go. Studies done for or discussed in the the story showed a range of calls in a range of sports that systematically favor home teams--extra time, fouls, and yellow and red cards in soccer; called (non-swinging) balls and strikes in baseball; close plays on the bases in baseball; traveling in basketball; and penalties and fumbles in football. The psychological effect is more pronounced in well-attended games (according to the story, in 2007, the Italian government ordered teams with deficient security to play games without spectators; 21 games were played in empty stadiums and a study by two economists found dramatic decreases in home-team benefits in fouls, yellow cards, and red cards).

The bias is revealed, in part, by the rise of technology, particularly in football. Visiting teams are more successful in overturning calls favoring the home team, especially where the home team is trailing. In other words officials make mistakes in the home teams' favor more often than they do in visiting teams' favor (although the difference is small). Replay thus has resulted in the narrowing or elimination of the home-team advantage, at least as to turnovers, because some of those erroneous calls are corrected (so maybe I need to rethink my opposition to replay in football). Technology also reveals  that officials get it right most of the time (about 85 % on balls and strikes). But the mistakes they make are not random--they tend to favor the home teams. And, of course, most mistakes are not discoverable or reversible--thus the home-field advantage continues.


I am not sure what to do with the story, which I find fascinating. For starters, I wonder what this tells us about the much-despised umpire analogy. One of my objections has been that the analogy, as used, misrepresents what umpires do. This study supports that thought. Umpires clearly do not just call balls and strikes as a simple, clear, robotic exercise--umpires (and other officials) are human and they and their decisions are subject to outside pressures and influences, such as, essentially, public opinion.
Similarly, critics of the umpire analogy have focused on the outside influences that (everyone who is being honest recognizes) affect judicial decisionmaking--life experience, ideology, politics, empathy, public opinion and pressure--just as outside influences affect umpires. But is there a still more-precise comparison between judicial decisionmaking and officiating, given what this new study shows? Is there a litigation "home team" that systematically gets the benefit of judicial decisions? Perhaps the government (especially in criminal cases) or any other repeat player in litigation? Are judges affected by the (unconscious) need/desire to make the populace happy, just as umpires are similarly affected, and does that affect decisions?

What else can this study tell us about judicial decisionmaking?

 
You Can't Sit There! UVA's Ticket and Seating Policy for Men's Basketball Games Called into Question

Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports has a great piece on a UNC hoops fan who bought a $100, 2nd row seat at a UNC-UVA game played in Charlottesville VA, but because he was wearing a Carolina blue coat and because the section was primarily intended for UVA fans and athletic staff, he was told he could not sit in the seat he purchased.

He was escorted out of the section -- which I imagine could have been embarrassing -- and dispatched to a different and not as good seat, where his school's colors were apparently less offensive.

Should he have been forced to change seats merely because he was supporting the opposing team? Even as a UVA alumn, I say no.

Here's an excerpt from Eisenberg's story:
* * *

Before the 46-year-old Arlington, Va. resident had time to remove his Carolina blue coat, a security guard approached and told Demery he couldn't sit in that section of John Paul Jones Arena wearing Tar Heels colors. Soon afterward, another Virginia staffer asked to see his ticket to verify that it was legitimate. And finally, associate athletic director Jason Bauman escorted Demery from his seat and relocated him to another seat 17 rows higher in the lower bowl.

"I couldn't believe it," Demery said. "I'm sitting there hoping to enjoy the game courtside and I thought it was going to work out great and in a matter of 15 minutes, it changed. I just was shaking my head thinking, 'How is this possible? How are they allowed to get away with this?'"

* * *

Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School, said that Demery's contractual rights may have been breached if the ticket he purchased didn't stipulate that he could not sit in the seat unless he was a Virginia fan. McCann also said relocating Demery may have been a First Amendment violation since Virginia is a public school and has less authority to regulate speech than a private institution.

"A fan who wears the 'wrong' team's shirt should probably not be excluded from a particular seat that he has legally purchased," McCann wrote via e-mail. "Sure, schools can encourage fans of one team to sit in certain sections, but they probably can't sell a ticket and then revoke its conditions because the ticket-buyer happens to be a fan of the other team."

* * *
To read the rest, click here.

To expand my comments, while colleges clearly have "some" authority to regulate the conduct of fans and what's known as fans' "cheering speech" (i.e., how fans cheer, either for or against a team/player - a topic which Howard has written about), their use of that authority has to be carefully drafted. For instance, if fans excessively and loudly spew out profanities at games, and there are kids around, their First Amendment rights may be trumped by various concerns, including those based on security. Plus, those fans would likely have violated the terms of their ticket admission by being so disruptive.

But merely wearing the opposing team's colors? Come on. Hard to see how that can be regulated without providing notice to ticket buyers in advance.

It's disappointing that a school founded by Thomas Jefferson, of all people, would take this approach.

 
F.T.C. to Investigate Football Helmet Manufacturer Riddell

The Associated Press reported on Friday that the United States Federal Trade Commission is looking into potentially misleading and deceptive trade practices by football helmet manufacturer Riddell. Riddell is the official helmet manufacturer of the National Football League.

According to the AP article, the F.T.C. is concerned about statements on Riddell's website stating that "research shows a 31 percent reduction in the risk of concussion in players wearing a Riddell Revolution football helmet when compared to traditional helmets." According to United States Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico) -- who wrote to the F.T.C. requesting an investigation -- there is little evidence supporting Riddell's safety claims. For its part, Riddell released a statement calling the allegations "unfounded and unfair," and welcoming any scrutiny.

The AP interviewed Professor Stephen Ross, director of Penn State's Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research, for its story, who noted that "the commission has several options if it decides to pursue action against companies, including a cease-and-desist order."

For more on this story, see the Associated Press's report here.

Friday, January 14, 2011
 
Show Myself The Money? NFL agent Bob LaMonte and Representing Both Sides of Cleveland Browns Negotiation

Is there a conflict of interest when the same NFL agent represents a team's president, executive VP, general manager and the person whom the team is hiring as coach?

Welcome to the world of the Cleveland Browns!

Bill Lubinger of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story and interviews several persons, including Rick and me:

* * *
The middle man in the Browns' 10-day coaching search was Bob LaMonte, whose influence in Berea now stretches from the team's boardroom to the coach's office.

The seasoned NFL agent represents the Browns' executive team of President Mike Holmgren, General Manager Tom Heckert and Executive Vice President Bryan Wiedmeier. He also represents Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who will be introduced today.

How is it that an agent can sit on both sides of the table without a conflict of interest?

* * *

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the players union regulates agents, not the league. And, according to union rules, dual representation is not prohibited as long as an agent discloses the names of any coaches, general managers or other management types he or she represents.

* * *
"My expectation," said Scott Rosner, associate director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, "is that it would be an arm's-length negotiation."

* * *

Sports lawyer Rick Karcher, who directs the Center for Law and Sports at the Florida Coastal School of Law, said agents would suggest such representation is an advantage because it provides valuable connections, allows for insight other agents wouldn't have and allows them to serve as a helpful mediator when two clients clash.

* * *

Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at the Vermont Law School, said the remedy is just that simple.

"The fix is easy, at least in theory," McCann said. "Get a new agent."


To read the rest, click here.

 
Even More on Antitrust Law and the BCS

While Monday evening's BCS National Championship Game commanded much of the college football world's attention this week, the antitrust implications of the Bowl Championship Series continued to make news as well. Specifically, as reported by several media outlets, the law firm of Arent Fox -- legal counsel to Boise State University and the Mountain West Conference on matters relating to antitrust law and the BCS -- recently submitted a report to the United States Department of Justice arguing that the BCS violates federal antitrust law. The Justice Department is presently deciding whether to launch a formal antitrust investigation of the BCS.

The Arent Fox report sets out to debunk 22 common arguments advanced in support of the BCS, ranging from the assertion that a playoff would damage college football's regular season, to the issue of whether consumer welfare is sufficiently implicated by the BCS to warrant an antitrust lawsuit. The report concludes that the BCS does in fact violate antitrust law, and urges the Justice Department to launch a formal investigation.

To read the Arent Fox report click here. For other takes on the legality of the BCS under antitrust law, please see my article "Antitrust & The Bowl Championship Series," as well as Michael McCann's "Antitrust, Governance, and Postseason College Football."

Thursday, January 13, 2011
 
Could the Alleged Misdeeds of Internationally Based Boxers Put Them Down for the Count with U.S. Commissions?

Back in September, hot junior middleweight contender Alfredo (El Perro) Angulo, 19-1 (16 KOs), provided the boxing world with an explicit example of what it takes to be banned from United States boxing venues, United States television, and the United States as a whole. Angulo, then a favorite son of HBO Sports, was deported back to Mexico in September after it was discovered that he had illegally entered the United States, got deported back to Mexico, and illegally entered the United States for a second time over the course of several years. In one fell swoop, Angulo burned not only U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), but also HBO and his entire U.S. team. While Angulo may ultimately be able to salvage his career in his native Mexico, his situation begs the question of what it takes, other than a serious medical condition or an immigration infraction, for an internationally-born or based boxer to be banned from boxing in the United States. Angulo was an easy call, indeed the federal government did not even leave it to any athletic commissions’ discretion, but the legal and regulatory issues facing other notable boxers based outside of the United States today, who could otherwise be granted visas to fight and train over here, may not provide similarly clear outcomes. Indeed, boxers like the late Edwin (El Inca) Valero have been allowed to enter the United States only to be banned by specific commissions. Using New York law as a backdrop, an analysis of whether the recent legal and regulatory problems of several notable overseas boxers could result in their inability to be licensed in the United States follows...

For the complete article, please click on this link.

 
Polygraph = Anti-Corruption Tool?

Does the polygraph (aka lie detector machine) have to potential to be used as an anti-corruption tool in sports? According to a recent Guardian article by Andy Wilson and Rob Bagchi, the answer appears to be "yes." The plan was hatched after reports of match-fixing in the sport of cricket.

The news column caught my eye because I suggested something similar in a recent paper regarding possible bias by NBA referees. In relevant part, I wrote the following:

In the absence of collaboration in the form of direct evidence, the prima facie showing could be rebutted by an innocuous explanation. The analysis here merely lends itself to the formation of a rebuttable presumption. Without more, such analysis is uncorroborated. A subsequent investigation that includes personal interviews, polygraph tests, or the like would be necessary to conclusively ascertain whether any insidious conduct occurred.

Including such a "polygraph provision" in any league-union CBA would be unlikely, but may be an option if corruption ever reaches this level, as reported by Eric Pfanner of the New York Times in the context of European soccer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
 
Mark Conrad's The Business of Sports (second edition)

Congratulations to Sports Law Blog contributor Mark Conrad on publication of the second edition of his book, The Business of Sports.

This second edition is 100 pages longer, with added discussion on contemporary issues on labor, international sports and intellectual property and media. Mark's book is excellent - it's clear, organized, and has a ton of useful information. I've used it in a number of my writings.

Check out the Amazon page for The Business of Sports.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
 
Should MLB adopt a Rule that Limits Innings Pitched by Young Pitchers?

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci has a good column on the relationship between an increase in innings pitched from season-to-season and injuries suffered by young pitchers. Here's an excerpt:
One small part of such understanding is monitoring the innings of young pitchers from one year to the next. More than a decade ago, drawing on the advice of pitching coach Rick Peterson, I developed a rule of thumb that pitchers 25 and younger should not increase their workload by more than 30 innings. It's the same theory as training for a marathon: you risk injury by jumping from a 10K to the marathon instead of incremental increases. I called it the Year After Effect because the wear and tear often was followed by regression or injury the next year.

* * *

In recent years a new term has come into the game to prevent injuries, not just treat them: prehabilitation. Governing the workload of young pitchers has become standard procedure. Shutting down healthy pitchers in September, for instance, is a common occurrence.

* * *
Personally, I think one of the benefits of teams shutting down a young pitcher after he throws a certain number of innings is that it is a bright-line rule and takes the matter out-of-the-hands of the pitcher's manager, whose incentives may be short term and thus not always match those of the pitcher or general manager. Of course, the decision to shut down a pitcher is a team-based and not league-based decision, with some teams--and their managers--more protective of their pitchers than others.

So a thought: should the MLBPA try to collectively bargain a bright-line rule with the owners that would institute a league-wide limit on the number of innings thrown by a young pitcher, depending on his age?

Such a rule would surely attract criticism, especially since young pitchers, like all pitchers, are not equally susceptible to injury. For example, physically larger pitchers seem to be more durable than smaller guys, while pitchers with certain kinds of windups cause their arm more tension. A bright-line could consider a player's height/weight, but more likely it would only consider his age and number of innings pitched. Alternatively, instead of innings pitched, the rule could be based on pitches thrown - the same idea (and drawbacks) would be there.

Whatever a bright-line rule on innings pitched lacks in nuance and player-specific accuracy, it might still save some careers. It would also ensure that young pitchers don't fret about criticisms that they're more worried about their arms' health than their teams' success -- it wouldn't be the pitchers' choice, after-all, they would have to shut down after throwing a certain number of innings.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011
 
Jets and Brett Favre hit with Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

The troubles of the Jets continue. Two massage therapists have filed a lawsuit claiming that they lost their jobs after complaining about "sexually suggestive text messages" from Farve while he was on the Jets in 2008.

I was interviewed yesterday by Maggie Gray of Sports Illustrated Video to discuss:


Tuesday, January 04, 2011
 
Special Master Hearing on whether NFL breached Collective Bargaining Agreement in TV Contracts

University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Stephen Burbank, the Special Master of the NFL for grievances with the NFLPA, began a hearing today in New York City for a grievance filed by the NFLPA. The NFLPA alleges that the NFL breached its fiduciary duties under the CBA by -- according to the NFLPA -- taking less from TV networks for broadcast contracts in exchange for the guarantee that the NFL would be paid by those networks in 2011, regardless of whether there is a league lockout. The NFLPA characterizes the NFL's contract strategy as "lockout insurance" and claim that it contradicts the CBA. The NFL, in contrast, argues that it did not breach any duties and, moreover, that it has discretion in its business decisions for broadcast contracts. If the NFLPA wins, it would provide added motivation to NFL owners to agree on a new CBA before the current one expires on March 4.

I was interviewed by Public Radio's Marketplace show this morning to discuss the hearing - for an interview transcript and link to audio, click here.

Sunday, January 02, 2011
 
Sugar is Sweet

A few facts to follow up on the post by Michael on the suspension of five Ohio State Football players. Thankfully, the Coach did allow the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl on the condition that the juniors agreed to return to the school for their senior year rather than throw their hats in the NFL lottery ring. How charitable.

That Coach Jim Tressel recently had his contract extended for two years so he can continue to earn $3.5 million annually from The Ohio State University, a tax-exempt state university and recipient of millions of dollars in state and federal funds.

Speaking of tax exempt status, I am glad to report that the Sugar Bowl Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, making your contributions tax deductible. The CEO of the foundation, Paul Hoolahan, receives annual compensation of $645,386 for his fine work.

For playing in this great game, Ohio State receives about 17 million dollars.

Now you know why the NCAA was so upset about these kids besmirching such charitable endeavors by accepting those free tattoos.

 
Red Sox Re-Sign Hideki Okajima, client of Sports Law Blog's Joe Rosen

The Boston Red Sox have re-signed 35-year-old lefthanded-relief pitcher Hideki Okajima, whom Joe Rosen of Orpheus Sports and Entertainment - and Sports Law Blog - represents.

Congrats to Joe on negotiating the contract for Okajima, who was an all-star in 2007 but who struggled at times last year. Given the Sox's recent acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, along with an improved bullpen, Okajima has a legitimate chance of winning another World Series ring.

Saturday, January 01, 2011
 
Was Suspended Ohio State's QB Terrelle Pryor in the Right or Wrong?

Stefanie Loh of the Patriot News examines the five game suspension of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other players for selling their championship gear and pocketing the profits - a violation of NCAA rules but, from the players' standpoint, a way of obtaining the fruits of their otherwise unpaid labor.

She interviews Geoff and me for the story. Here's an excerpt:
All season, the waters of college football have been muddied by stories of student-athletes breaking rules by trying to make money or receive benefits that, per NCAA rules, they are not eligible for due to their amateur status.

But as a 2009 ESPN.com story showed, a bona fide football star can be a multi-million dollar asset to his university. The University of Florida’s football revenues totaled $132 million in Tim Tebow’s sophomore and junior seasons combined. In exchange, the only monetary compensation the quarterback received was his scholarship worth $13,160 per year, and a minimal monthly stipend.

* * *

Patriot News: Is there any feasible way we can find a happy medium and compensate the student-athletes while not creating dissension?

Rapp: You could allow for a fairly modest stipend. Like what grad students make teaching introductory English in exchange for $20,000 a year. Then, if you’re Terrelle, you have something in your pocket, and it reduces temptation. The real problem is that most universities couldn’t afford to give their student-athletes $10-20,000. For most universities, it would mean the end of their programs.

McCann: How would other athletes be compensated? And how would Title IX work into it? If you’re only paying the players from programs that make money — at most schools that is men’s basketball and football — other players would say “I should be paid too” and the school would say, “You’re not contributing enough to the market.” It would certainly complicate college sports, and I imagine some schools would have to cut programs to pay for this.
To read the rest, click here.

I went on to say that another response -- though not a complete solution -- would be for the NFL, NBA, and WNBA, and their respective players' associations, to collectively-bargain a lowering of their age/experience eligibility restrictions. Here are the current rules:
  • The NBA requires that U.S. players be 19-years-old and one-year removed from high school.
  • The WNBA requires that U.S. players be four-years removed from high school or at least 22-years old.
  • The NFL requires that players be three-years removed from high school.
Those rules are applied in all cases and make no exceptions for a young player's extraordinary talents (i.e., there is no Lebron exception) or his/her financial hardships.

Lowered eligibility would mean that college football and basketball players who would be drafted if they were eligible could then leave college (or not go to college) and pursue those leagues and thereby earn income for their labor. These are the same players who, because they are the best, presumably generate the most fan interest and are thus the most deserving of gaining compensation for their services. To be sure, some of these players would prefer to attend/remain in college, develop their games, and obtain a college education - the choice, though, would be theirs.

None of this is to say that other college student-athletes don't deserve to be paid for their athletic achievements, but if only some can be paid, it would seem that players who are 1) good enough to turn pro and 2) would turn pro but can't because of arbitrary age limits should be first in line.