Category Archives: See You In Court

Amoral

One thing about college football — winning seems to bring out the worst in some people.

Mark Lanier, Briles’ attorney, said schools have contacted his client about coaching again, and he expects Briles to be coaching in 2018. Briles was fired in May 2016 amid the school’s sexual assault scandal.

“There’s no question this is one step toward him getting back into coaching,” Lanier said. “He did not want to get back into coaching until he finished through the legal system.”

Yeah, who needs the distraction, amirite?  Any athletic director worth his salt wants a coach who’s fully focused on the job.  And if that’s what you’re looking for, Briles is your kind of football coach.

“It was definitely eye-opening because I think there were people in the room that didn’t want to fire Art Briles, but they also felt like they had to have somebody in charge who could fix the problems and it was pretty clear the guy was nothing but a football coach,” Schlabach said. “It just felt like it was the end of the game where he made a bad play call and said, ‘It won’t happen again.’ I don’t think he really understood the gravity of the problems and really just wouldn’t admit to what had happened under his watch.”

Oh, but he’s learned his lesson.

Lanier said Hernandez dropped the suit against Briles and did not request money or an apology from him.

Lanier said Briles feels “a measure of vindication” by Tuesday’s filing.

“He does feel bad for anybody who was hurt at all,” Lanier said of Briles. “Whether through Baylor or otherwise, he’s still got a soft heart for a victim of any crime at all. He’s cognizant of that.”

That we live in a world where Briles feels vindication and some school is prepared to enable that is pretty depressing.

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Filed under Baylor Is Sensitive To Women's Issues, See You In Court

For a good cause: hanging them with their own words

The plaintiffs in the Alston and Jenkins antitrust cases have filed motions for summary judgment, saying that there’s no need for a trial because the NCAA and the schools have made their cases for them.

To buttress their case, the plaintiffs cited from an array of depositions taken from some of college sports’ most prominent executives, including NCAA President Mark Emmert, NCAA executive vice president Oliver Luck, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon and Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The plaintiffs also attempted to turn a variety of NCAA rules back on the association, including the ones that allowed scholarships to be enhanced to cover the cost of attendance.

The NCAA’s and the conferences’ “price-fixing justification based on their ever-elusive concept of ‘amateurism’ is simply their version of a three-card Monte game in which the line defining amateurism never stays in the same place,” the plaintiffs wrote. The defendants “will not be able to carry their burden to prove that the challenged restraints are necessary to maintain consumer demand” in college sports.

The plaintiffs wrote that no defense witness “has identified any kind of study … into whether their compensation rules have any positive relationship to consumer demand for college sports.”

“Remarkably,” they added, Emmert “testified it was not even his ‘primary objection’ that ‘impact … on audiences either watching the TV’ or attending could be harmed by college athletes being paid beyond (cost of attendance). Rather, the dominant rationale Emmert has discussed with NCAA members is ‘philosophical.’ ”

… The plaintiffs cited testimony from Lennon and Bowlsby to attempt to punch other holes in the NCAA’s case. They noted that while the NCAA seeks to limit scholarships to the full cost of attendance and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the Ed O’Bannon antitrust case that allowing athletes to receive “cash sums untethered to educational expenses … is a quantum leap” that would irreparably damage its particular brand of sports, NCAA rules already allow athletes to receive benefits that Lennon testified are “not related to the principle of amateurism” and not tethered to educational expenses.

As just one example, the plaintiffs cited the gifts that football players can receive for playing in bowl games — and they wrote that Bowlsby testified, “I’m not sure how [gifts provided in gift suites] could be tethered to education.”

The plaintiffs argue that not only has the provision of cost-of-attendance-based scholarships and other new benefits like transportation and lodging for family members of athletes playing in the College Football Playoff or the Final Four has not hurt consumer demand, it also, according to an NCAA expert in the case “may actually ‘foster’ demand because consumers may feel positively about colleges doing more for students.”

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs argue, NCAA rules “ban myriad forms of benefits … that are tethered to education. For example, NCAA rules do not allow schools to offer guaranteed post-eligibility scholarships to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree at a school of an athlete’s choice, or to subsidize vocational training, or to offer financial incentives for academic progress or a degree.”

In addition, wrote the plaintiffs, while the NCAA contends that limiting athletes’ compensation helps to keep athletes better connected to an educational environment than they would otherwise be, in order to “collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues,” the conferences “surrender control over scheduling games to broadcasters.” To back this up, the plaintiffs filed a nearly completely redacted appendix comprising a multi-page table it titled “Defendant Contract Terms”; one column of the table was labeled “Scheduling Provisions.”

Referring to that that table, and again citing Bowlsby’s deposition, they wrote: “Defendants admit that their ‘stated beliefs and [their] actions are too often inconsistent with one another’ due to television- and revenue-driven conditions like ‘[late] 9:48 tip-off[s]’ on school nights, ‘three days of competition in a row’ and a host of other concessions that place TV broadcasters’ needs ahead of athletes.’ ”

Brutal.

Here’s some more real world tethering for you.

Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun launched their company, Trailheads Apparel, Feb. 2, followed a few days later with a GoFundMe page that raised $645 in two days.

Not bad for college student entrepreneurs.

The only problem was Dawson and Rathbun are University of Iowa swimmers, who, as college athletes, are prohibited by the NCAA from using their names, photos or athletic links to promote their own businesses.

“We tried our best not to put anything about swimming in it,” Dawson, a UI senior and freestyle swimmer from Centennial, Colo., said about their online pitch for the company that produces T-shirts with slogans like “Camping? It’s in-tents.”

But the GoFundMe page included the founders’ names and bios saying they met as swimmers at Iowa, which resulted in a report to Lyla Clerry, UI associate athletics director for compliance.  [Emphasis added.]

They are being punished for literally using their names.  There’s an education in that, somewhere.  Maybe Emmert can explain his philosophy to them.

Meanwhile, at Nebraska, they’ve decided to use some of the athletic department profits to pay students.  Not student-athletes, students.

Nebraska Athletics will provide $5 million in scholarships to nonathletes, potentially providing additional aid to hundreds of students each year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Chancellor Ronnie Green and Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst unveiled the Husker Scholars program Friday during a meeting of the NU Board of Regents. It will provide the first scholarships for incoming freshman in the 2018-19 school year.

… NU President Hank Bounds said if the $5 million were divided into full scholarships, more than 500 students would be able to attend college at little cost. Dividing it further could provide college aid to more than 1,000 students, which would elevate the degree attainment in Nebraska.

And if that $5 million were divided among the student-athletes who helped generate the revenue in the first place?  Crickets.

It’s certainly laudable that the school is making an effort to ease the financial burden on some students.  The method is ironic, though, to say the least.  It should make for a great future soundbite if Nebraska finds itself having to pay players market compensation one day and takes the money for that out of this new scholarship fund.  Of course, if the school were that upset about it, it could always take the money out of coaches’ and administrators’ salaries… er, never mind.

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Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

A very clever tactical retreat, major.

Ole Miss has been dismissed from Houston Nutt’s lawsuit.  But Nutt’s attorney doesn’t seem particularly nonplussed by the development.

LOL.  That’s the sound of a man who’s already claimed one scalp and looks to be back in state court to see what more he can get.

As a side note, how perfect is it that’s there’s a lawyer named Bubba involved in this?

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Filed under Freeze!, See You In Court

“Jeffrey Kessler just had to pee.”

An alert reader pointed me to this piece about the lawyer driving the existential threat to the NCAA’s amateurism protocol.  The whole thing is worth a read, but there are two passages in particular worth highlighting.

First, the big bucks that are involved.  Really big bucks.

The big business of college sports, meanwhile, has only continued to explode. Today, the men’s NCAA Tournament alone provides the organization with nearly $900 million annually in television revenue, while individual conferences have television contracts worth billions of dollars over their lifespans, and schools pay coaches and athletic directors multimillion-dollar salaries. Collectively, the men’s basketball programs that make up Division I and the football programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision generate more than $7 billion in annual revenues. Big-time college sports look more like their professional counterparts than they ever have, with one major exception: The NCAA has restrictive rules in place that prevent schools from compensating athletes beyond the full cost of attending.

“The economics here are that basketball and football have become gigantic businesses,” Kessler said. “The total revenue for basketball and football in Division I is greater than the total revenue of the NBA. It’s greater than the total revenue of the NHL. … It’s the third biggest sport by revenue in this country. The idea that these are not businesses, it makes no sense. And you should allow those who are producing this revenue to be treated in a fairer way.”  [Emphasis added.]

If you continue to wonder why arguments about compensation continue to resonate, the overall context of the revenue generated by Division I football and basketball should be your answer.  Amateurism operates in a totally different financial setting than it did even 25 years ago.

The second illustrates why Kessler is so dangerous to the NCAA and its member schools.

Kessler has read the headlines and heard these arguments. He knows some believe that his case could “suck the magic out of college sports” and turn them into glorified minor leagues that fans simply wouldn’t watch. But even if he wins, he argues, the outcome won’t be nearly as dire or drastic as the skeptics predict.

Kessler’s primary argument is not against the NCAA itself, but its amateurism rules specifically. What violates antitrust law, he argues, is that the schools and major conferences band together under those rules to artificially cap the compensation an athlete can receive for his services to a school. In Kessler’s world, conferences could set their own rules regarding compensation, then compete against each other: The Big Ten might stick to the current rules, for instance, while the Southeastern Conference might elect to pay athletes above and beyond the value of a scholarship. Another might follow the Ivy League model and refuse to grant athletic scholarships at all. The result would be something of a free market for men’s basketball and football players.

Alternatively, the NCAA, its schools and their conferences could follow in the path of major pro leagues, and negotiate a new system with athletes or a body that represents them.

“I know what they’re going to argue in court,” Kessler said, sitting up in his chair and clapping his hands together, his voice nearly cracking from excitement ― and frustration. “They’ll argue what they’ve always argued: that amateurism is this holy grail. The new version of it is that if you pay one penny more than the full cost of attendance … the world will come to an end.”

There are obvious parallels to his previous cases, where the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NFL all contended that more rights, and more money, for players would spell doom for their products. Free agency, of course, has had none of the dramatic and devastating effects the owners once predicted: Salaries have risen tremendously, sure, but so have revenues. Leagues, owners and players are all vastly richer today than they once were.

“It’s utter and complete nonsense,” Kessler said. “Allowing baseball, football, basketball and hockey players greater economic freedom and compensation did not destroy the NFL or NBA. It did not destroy the NHL or Major League Baseball. It made those sports fairer and better. It did not decrease popularity or interest in the Olympics.”

That’s some tough precedent for the NCAA to argue against.  Even tougher, if it tries to claim that college sports have a special attraction and value because of amateurism, how does it explain away the trends that have driven those same college sports in the general direction as those same pro sports from which it wants to distinguish — conference expansion, postseason expansion, conference networks, massive increases in coaches’ and AD’s salaries, etc.?

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“I would have to ask, and have asked, are you telling me that with a straight face?”

Houston Nutt’s attorney keeps dialing up the rhetoric.

“There can be no doubt, especially when it comes to athletics, that Ole Miss holds the SEC record for sure for being the most notorious flagrant violator of their state’s open record laws.

“From what I’ve learned in the past two weeks, I dare say they probably hold the same record when compared to every other Division I school in the country.’’

Greg McGarity smiles knowingly.  You can’t easily violate an Open Record law you rewrite for your own benefit, Ole Miss.

In Mars’ defense, the school does appear to be engaged in some fairly deep hairsplitting.

The school said in the letter that Freeze’s phone was provided by the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and that allowed Freeze to use the phone for personal and business calls. The foundation is a private, non-profit organization that provides “direct and indirect funding … and other support for the University of Mississippi department of intercollegiate athletics,” according to its most recently available federal tax records.

In the letter, university assistant general counsel Robert T. Jolly, wrote that cell phones used by athletics personnel, including Freeze, are provided by the foundation. Jolly wrote that “Mississippi law prohibits personal use of state-issued cell phones and requires elaborate and time-consuming reconciliation of all activities on state cell phones. As a result, very few University employees use state-issued phones. This has been the case for about ten years.”

However, Jolly also wrote that to ensure compliance with NCAA rules, the foundation “provides the University detailed usage information designed to meet our compliance needs.”

Beyond that, Ole Miss contends that, due to the labor-intensive nature of the task, that it will cost more than $20,000 to review all of Freeze’s phone records.  Despite that,

Hugh Freeze is being given the opportunity to review and redact phone records of calls he deemed personal during his five years as the University of Mississippi’s football coach, the university’s general counsel, Lee Tyner, said Thursday.

To be fair, Hugh probably does have a lot of time on his hands these days.

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Filed under Freeze!, See You In Court