Category Archives: See You In Court

Prohibition

I’m a little surprised nobody brought up the subject of what I was hinting at in the header of yesterday’s post about the announcement of federal prosecution of several basketball coaches.  No doubt it was easy to be distracted by the fact that, yet again, Auburn finds itself enmeshed in another recruiting scandal, but let’s not lose sight of the underlying cause of the (alleged) criminal activity.

It is from the NCAA’s system of amateurism that the criminal investigation became possible: law enforcement became aware various persons broke NCAA rules in ways that violated criminal law. If the NCAA had adopted a system where players were compensated for their labor and compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness, perhaps all or some of these “under the table” payments would not have occurred. We’ll never know. But some will ask.

Blow it off, if you like, but that is a typically real world result of market distortion.  If you want an uncomfortable analogy, it’s kind of like how they caught Al Capone.

The NCAA has a problem here, as well, that’s probably beginning to dawn on its member schools.  The problem is, unlike the usual investigation of such matters, it has no control over the proceedings.  Even worse, the federal investigation is far from toothless.  Unlike the NCAA, the feds have subpoena power and the threat of jail time to play in order to get cooperation.  That can turn over a lot of rocks that normally would stay in the shade.

Along those lines, the fact that such extensive corruption allegedly occurred raises questions as to whether the NCAA is even capable of stopping any of it. The NCAA, like any organization, has a limited bandwidth. Further, since it is a private actor, the NCAA lacks subpoena powers and other investigatory capabilities enjoyed by law enforcement.

The individual schools implicated in the prosecutions—including Auburn, Oklahoma State, Arizona, USC and Louisville—are also impacted by the trajectory of these cases. Employees of their schools are now accused of partaking in conduct that violates criminal law and NCAA rules. It stands to reason the NCAA could, and no doubt will, investigate the criminal cases and potentially impose sanctions on those schools.

The schools might also worry about civil liability associated with criminal acts committed by employees, as well as repercussions with their insurance companies. It stands to reason that a recruited player who loses his NCAA eligibility as a result of this criminal investigation could consider suing the recruiting school as well as others involved.

Adidas is also impacted. One of its well-known executives, Gatto, is now a defendant in a criminal case in which he is accused of peddling his position with the apparel company to advance a criminal enterprise. Even if other sneaker company executives partake in similar kinds of misconduct, Adidas is the one with an executive who faces charges. That dynamic could damage the brand and the confidence placed in it by company investors. Also, given that Adidas is a publicly traded company, allegations against an Adidas executive might attract the unwanted attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

All of these associated parties would likely be pleased if the defendants strike plea deals to end the cases as soon as possible. The NCAA, universities and Adidas all know the longer these cases drag out, the more likely compromising evidence will surface, whether that occurs through subpoenas, warrants or the pretrial discovery process. It’s possible many names, including of significant figures in college sports, will come to light and in unflattering ways. To that end, it seems quite possible head coaches and athletic department officials of implicated schools may have been aware of an assistant coach’s wrongdoing. Further, executives at the related universities and Adidas could all be called to testify in forums that damage their associated brands.

All this to preserve the amateurism protocol.  At some point, you have to wonder if Emmert’s bosses start to question if this a price worth paying to prevent student-athletes from being compensated for their names, likenesses and images. Down the road, we may look back on this indictment and recognize it as being as significant a turning point in the history of college athletics as NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma wound up being.

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Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

Tuesday morning buffet

Let’s open up the chafing dishes.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Notre Dame's Faint Echoes, Pac-12 Football, Recruiting, SEC Football, See You In Court, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

Thursday morning buffet

So many nuggets, so little time.

  • For Florida, it takes a village to raise a mediocre offense.
  • Distraction time:  Brian Kelly’s been sued by a former player.
  • The Jarrett Stidham hype train didn’t exactly burst out of the station in Auburn’s opener.  Eh, it’ll probably kick in against Clemson’s defense this week…
  • Strong mid-majors performance in this year’s recently concluded Fulmer Cup standings.
  • A few SEC Network insights on Georgia’s defense and Jake Fromm after the opener.
  • It sounds like the 1980 Georgia squad is as frustrated about the title drought as the rest of us are.
  • You know your program is a finely tuned machine when you first learn about your injury status on Twitter.
  • Here’s a look at our fan base from a Chicago perspective.
  • Trent Thompson is coming on like gangbusters.  “Thompson also added two tackles for a loss and a sack. In his last two games (counting last season’s bowl game) he has had 14 tackles, 5 ½ tackles for loss and four sacks. He had just two sacks in the first 12 games last season, before three in the bowl game against TCU and one on Saturday.”

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Crime and Punishment, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Notre Dame's Faint Echoes, 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