Last Thursday, EA Sports and College Licensing Company reached a preliminary settlement in the "Ed O’Bannon" class action lawsuit over the use of college athletes' names, images, and likenesses.  The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but reports suggest that the figure could be upwards of $50 million.  Not surprisingly, EA Sports announced that it will no longer produce its popular “NCAA Football” franchise beginning in 2014.  If the settlement is approved, more than 100,000 former and current student-athletes may be eligible for varying amounts of compensation depending on the specifics of each class member’s claim, including the prevalence of the individual in the game.   

It is well known that NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from profiting off their name while in school and violators of this rule risk the loss of NCAA eligibility (for student-athletes) and potential sanctions (for member institutions), but now, some current student-athletes are in a position to receive a damages award stemming from the commercial use of their image, even though they are still enrolled in school.  The NCAA has thus far declined to comment on whether current student-athletes will be entitled to collect damages without risking their eligibility until after the terms of the settlement are revealed.  However, last year, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel likely set a precedent that will allow these current NCAA student-athletes to recover damages without jeopardizing their eligibility. 

In the Fall of 2012 after a series of breakout performances, Manziel trademarked his nickname “Johnny Football.”  Later that same season, a vendor began selling t-shirts with the phrase “Keep Calm and Johnny Football.” Manziel’s company, JMAN2 Enterprises LLC, filed a suit for damages as well as an injunction calling for the vendor to stop producing the t-shirts.  The suit posed the question of whether a current NCAA player could be entitled to collect legal damages for the misappropriation of likeness and retain eligibility.  The NCAA ruled that Manziel would be entitled to retain his eligibility and recover damages provided the trademark violation was not an intentional violation aimed at funneling money to the player.  While the O'Bannon/EA Sports case is not a trademark case, the NCAA test established in the Manziel ruling should apply because both cases center on the misappropriation of a student athlete’s proprietary interest.  Whereas Manziel can be awarded damages for the misappropriation of his intellectual property, current students would be entitled to compensation for the misappropriation of their names, images, and likeness.  The NCAA has refused to comment on the ability of current student-athletes to receive settlement money, but the precedent of the Manziel ruling will make it difficult for the Association to deny student-athletes’ recovery.  As a result, current NCAA student-athletes may be able to receive compensation from the O'Bannon/EA Sports settlement without risking their eligibility, even though they would not have otherwise been able to do so under NCAA Bylaws. 

This blog was originally posted on Wednesday, October 2. Click here to read the original post. 

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NFL, Players Reach Concussion Agreement

Posted on August 30, 2013 02:45 by Tim Epstein

 

While the $765 million proposed settlement is a considerable sum of money, a final judgment figure would possibly have greatly exceeded this dollar amount; not to mention legal fees and expert costs to get there, along with continued acrimony between necessary business partners (NFL players and the League) related to the MDL.  The proposed settlement appears to resolve all claims in the MDL against the NFL defendants, and apply to every former NFL player who will have retired by the time the Court approves the settlement.  At this stage, however, it appears that the litigation will continue as between the helmet manufacturers and the players.

For latest news regarding the settlement, click here

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On Monday, July, 8 2013 a Pennsylvania federal judge ordered a mass of NFL concussion cases to mediation.  The cases were brought by more than 4,000 former National Football League (NFL) players accusing the league of negligence and concealing the dangers of concussions.  The players say the league has known for years, or even decades about the long-term dangers of concussions.  The league responded that it released warnings based on the medical research available at the time.

The NFL filed motions to dismiss the cases in which it denied wrongdoing and stated that player safety is governed by the collective bargaining agreement.  The league contends the parties negotiated those terms and the issue is to be resolved in a confidential arbitration.  The players argue that the concealment was fraud and was not contemplated by the collective bargaining agreement.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody originally planned to rule on the motion to dismiss on July 22, 2013.  However, she now says she will not rule on the motion until at least early September.  The judge says this will give the mediator time to bring the sides closer together.  Layn Phillips, a retired federal judge, has been appointed as the mediator.  Phillips cannot make a binding decision, and any side can choose to stop whenever it wants; however, the judge hopes the continued negotiations will result in a settlement.  

First, Phillips will meet with both sides’ counsel to hear the arguments on each side.  Then he will go back and forth with each side individually to try and strike a deal that works for both parties.  When Phillips reports back to the judge on September 3, 2013, he can recommend going back to court or ask for more time to negotiate.

Neither side commented on the decision.  The judge ordered the sides to refrain from publically discussing the mediation.  

Some commentators think the order to mediate is a signal that the case has a chance to settle.  Settling could prevent the NFL from turning over records that may harm its public image.  Additionally, it would save a lot of time and expensive litigation because the suit could drag on for years.

Yet, there are still those that have their doubts.  Gabriel Feldman, the director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University said, “[i]t will be a great feat for the mediator to settle the case. He might bring them closer, but to what? This is complex litigation.”  He would be “surprised at this earl a stage for the N.F.L. to give a large settlement.”

We will have to wait until September 3 to see what happens.  The case is In re National Football League Players' Concussion Injury Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 12-2323.

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On March 11, 2013, the National Football League and the General Electric Co. announced that they are teaming up to create a Head Health Initiative that will provide $60 million dollars to assist leading neurologists in researching traumatic brain injuries and developing technology able to monitor these ailments.  $40 million will go towards developing imaging technologies, and the remaining $20 million will be available to others who seek to prevent, identify, and develop treatments for brain injuries.  Athletic apparel company Under Armour will also be providing $5 million dollars in support for the cause.

Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO, indicated that scientific support for the research would be top-notch.  “We’re trying to do this with the best minds anywhere in the world,” he noted in a news conference.  He declared that the funds would utilize GE’s expertise in sophisticated diagnostic imaging technology to increase general scientific knowledge on brain functions, noting “With this initiative, we will advance our research and apply our learning to sports-related concussions, brain injuries suffered by members of the military and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Advancing brain science will help families everywhere.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also expressed satisfaction with the initiative, stating: “The NFL has made tremendous progress in making the game safe and more exciting.  But we have more work to do.  Our collaboration with GE and Under Armour . . . puts us on an accelerated path to progress . . that will benefit athletes, the military, and all members of society.”

As orignally published at www.sportslawinsider.com March 13, 2013.
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On October 31, 2012, lawyers representing thousands of former NFL players filed an opposition brief to the NFL’s current motion to dismiss pending in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, insisting that based on the gravity of the harm incurred, their lawsuit against the League must be allowed to move forward.  The brief rejected the NFL’s contention that the action was essentially a labor dispute that needed to be resolved under the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The Plaintiffs accused the NFL of “orchestrat[ing] a disinformation campaign,” insisting that the League “knew that players were exposed to risks of severe neurological injuries yet did nothing to prevent them.”  However, the League has, time and again, publicly denied that it knew of any long-term dangers posed by concussions.  Further, the NFL insists that it did not intentionally lie to players about the potential side effects.  Instead, it stated that it delegated the decisions about players’ conditions and return-to-play decisions to individual team doctors and trainers.

At this point, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody must decide how to proceed with the extremely cumbersome litigation.  If a settlement is not reached and the case is not dismissed, it is possible that the individual cases could be returned to the multiple districts where they originated forcing the parties to proceed with separate trials.

Ex-players reply to NFL’s motion to dismiss cases

As orrignally posted on Sports Law Insider on November 14, 2012
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On Tuesday October 30th, the NCAA Board of Directors announced the adoption of a new enforcement structure that, among other things, creates additional levels of infractions, enhances accountability for head coaches, and seeks to punish violators with sanctions that more appropriately align with the actions that occurred.  The most striking of these new initiatives, to be implemented beginning in August of 2013, is the creation of the new four-tiered structure for violation classification.  

Under the current model, violations are classified as either major or secondary.  The new system sets forth violations as follows: Level I, Severe breach of conduct; Level II, Significant breach of conduct; Level III, Breach of conduct; and Level IV, Incidental issues.  A copy of the NCAA’s press release may be found here.  This new structure is the product of a year-long effort by the thirteen-member Board comprised of presidents, athletic directors, and conference commissioners.   President Mark Emmert described the changes as part of a devotion to “protecting the collegiate model,” in part by “remov[ing] the ‘risk-reward’ analysis that has tempted people.”   

These changes come on the heels of increasing external pressure for a more consistent and transparent process, with a number of major infractions cases serving as the backdrop for this magnified criticism.   Greater accountability and stricter sanctions is undoubtedly a step in the right direction when it comes to enforcement of what would be considered major infractions under the current framework.  The NCAA should be applauded for taking measures to ensure consequences for coaches who plead ignorance while violations blatantly occur on their watches.  But at the same time, the new violation structure is troublesome.   Despite admirable efforts to construct a better system, this new four-tiered structure for violation classification fails to ameliorate many of the common concerns expressed with respect to NCAA Bylaws and enforcement of the same.  Hopefully, this will be cleared-up with the upcoming changes to the substantive “rules” in the Bylaws.    

The NCAA Bylaws are often denounced as too lengthy and too complex, and deservedly so.  Moving from a two-tiered violation structure to a four-tiered system, if not matched-up with more common sense in rule substance, is an obvious step backward, and is counterintuitive if the desired outcome is a more workable framework.  Increased confusion is even more likely when one considers the near endless interpretations that could be attributed to the definitions describing each tier.  For example, consider the difference between a violation that “threatens the integrity of the NCAA,” versus a violation that merely “provides more than a minimal, but less than a substantial…advantage.”  One definition classifies a Level I violation, while the other corresponds with Level II, but is there really a difference?   The definitions may mean something different to a coach versus someone in compliance at a school or enforcement at the NCAA, so how then is the goal of deterrence met for the problem that President Emmert describes as a calculation of risk vs. reward made by coaches who currently do not have sufficient risk to their livelihoods or respective programs.

Under this system, inconsistencies may abound to an even greater degree than under the current model.  This is likely to complicate the NCAA’s investigative measures, which is problematic given the Association’s already limited resources; resources so limited that some have even suggested that the NCAA get out of the enforcement business altogether (for a more in depth discussion of this proposal, see this well-done piece by Attorney Stephen A. Miller, recently published in The Atlantic).  Finally, if the NCAA is really student-athlete first, then this measure does nothing to address the countless Bylaws that punish student-athletes for technical violations that provide no competitive advantage, and do little more than burden an already overwhelmed enforcement staff.  Again, it is worth pondering, is an “incidental issue” even worth sanctioning?  I hope that reforms not just in terms of a scholarship enhancement, but in terms of rules affecting student-athletes’ behavior on a day-to-day basis are addressed in the coming months.

Since the NCAA has chosen to divert its attention first to the method in which these intricate and often superfluous regulations are classified, my worry is that dealing with the substance later will lead to a continuance in seeing violations shoe-horned into a rigid framework that sometimes, but does not always fit.  For those that desire more consistency in results, do you want the NCAA to have something akin to Federal Sentencing Guidelines, or more common sense in results?  I am not yet convinced that the new enforcement structure will get us more common sense in results, which many (myself included) would like to see as opposed to more rigidity.

Over time, perhaps this will prove to be a positive step toward a streamlined, consistent, and fair process.  For now though, a more detailed systemization of the NCAA’s enforcement structure only seems to complicate matters further if there is not significant overhaul to the substance of the rules themselves.  While my experiences may leave me a bit biased, until we see a comprehensive reassessment of the actual Bylaw language (promised in the next few months), I foresee this self-proclaimed “overhaul” as little more than a re-branding exercise.

Originally published on Sportslawblog *Hat tip to Brian Konkel for his work on this piece.

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The National Football League recently filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Alterra America Insurance Co. in New York State Supreme Court, arguing that the excess insurer did not have the requisite standing to add additional insurers as parties to its New York action, since the NFL is already pursing an action against them in California.

The current dispute arose out of the massive insurance coverage obligations dispute between the NFL, NFL Properties LLC, and a host of primary and additional insurers, which began after the league was hit with a class action lawsuit by over 3,000 former players.  In the class action suit, the former players accuse the NFL of downplaying the risks of player concussions, causing many now-retired NFL alumni to experience degenerative mental diseases and later-life cognitive decline.

The jurisdictional dispute between the NFL and Alterra is basically a result of timing.  Alterra filed a suit against the league to determine its coverage obligations in New York court just two days before the NFL filed suit against 32 insurers in California state court.  Alterra then amended its complaint in an attempt to drag those other insurers into the New York case.

The NFL’s motion states that most of the insurance contracts at issue “are between the NFL policyholders and other insurers, making Alterra a complete stranger and not entitled to the relief it requests.”  It went on to note that the lead defendant in the California (Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.) was a California corporation, headquartered in California, and further, that multiple other claims representatives for different primary insurers are headquartered in California as well.  Lastly, the league noted that Alterra’s lawsuit was premature, as its excess policy did not “kick in” until the league’s primary insurers paid out $51 million in damages.  Added together, the NFL believes that these factors dictate that the matter should be decided in California, not New York.

Joseph M. Hanna is a partner of Goldberg Segalla and owner of the “Sports and Entertainment Law Insider” blog. You can read his original post here

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With the preseason underway and the regular season right around the corner, football fans are gathering in front of their TVs and crowding stadiums across the country with copious amounts of food and drink watching the big game.  Legal observers will have their own action to watch although this is likely to last several seasons.    

In 2011, several former players suffering a variety of neurological disorders sued the NFL for negligence and fraud relating to whether the NFL knew and withheld that knowledge that concussions and other head injuries incurred during the playing of football could lead to long term brain damage and related side effects (no comment).  Many of these suits received class action status and were removed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

On August 13, 2012, the roster of players on this legal gridiron expanded to include the NFL’s insurance companies.  Alterra America Insurance Company, an excess insurance provider, filed suit in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking a declaratory judgment stating that Alterra
1) does not have a duty to defend the NFL against player lawsuits
2) does not have a duty to indemnify the NFL against player lawsuits

Two days later, the NFL and NFL Properties filed suit against 32 insurance companies (or nearly every major insurer in the country as reported by Reuters)  including Alterra asking the Court to require these insurers to defend and indemnify the NFL from the players’ suits.  Why so many insurers?  Because the NFL sued nearly every insurer that it has ever had regardless if a current business relationship currently exists.  This is mostly a dispute about when duty to defend triggers.  The NFL in its papers argues it’s when the injury occurs. National Football League v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance, BC490342, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County at 12.  This becomes a bit of problem because different insurers insured the NFL at different times going back to 1963. Determining which injury (if only one) caused the long term damage, when that particular injury occurred and which policy was in effect at that particular time is going to be messy to say the least. 

However, the more interesting story here takes place nearly a week later.  On August 21, Travelers’ Insurance followed “suit” and filed its own action against the NFL and the other insurance companies seeking a declaratory judgment with roughly the same arguments as Alterra.  What makes this interesting is the fine distinction that Travelers’ makes in its papers which is how the other insurance companies become involved.  

Travelers' argues that its only obligation is to NFL Properties and not to the NFL itself (both the NFL and NFL Properties have been parties to these suits).   Travelers’ argues that it never insured the NFL (whom we guess Travelers’ believes is going to take the brunt of any payout either in the form of a judgment or settlement) and therefore shouldn’t have to bear any of the NFL’s costs. Traveler’s suit against the other insurance companies is a pre-emptive strike against its peers who “may dispute Travelers’ position with respect to some or all of the foregoing matters, and make seek contribution from Travelers’ with respect to defense costs and/or indemnity paid under the policies they issued to the NFL and/or NFL Properties with respect [to the players’ law suits].” Discovery Property & Casualty Co. v. National Football League, 652933/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan) at 19.

It looks like all the players are in their respective formations… and there’s the kickoff.

[1] Ben Berkowitz, “NFL Sues Dozens of Insurers Over Player Injury Claims.“ Reuters.  08/16/12.  Accessed on 08/28/12.  Available at: http://mobile.reuters.com/article/sportsNews/idUSBRE87F0UB20120816?irpc=932.

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Shortly after the NCAA’s imposition of unprecedented sanctions against Penn State, I wrote in this space about the myth of due process protection in the NCAA arena. Essentially, the NCAA, as a private voluntary association of member institutions, is not a state actor and is not bound by state or federal constitutional constraints. Since NCAA member institutions appear to have validated President Mark Emmert’s unilateral punishment (through the NCAA Executive Committee and Division I Board of Directors), and Penn State consented, affected parties were left with very little recourse. Now, it appears that the Paterno family intends to challenge this notion. For various reasons, the family is unlikely to succeed either through an administrative appeal or in court.

As a threshold matter, the consent decree falls completely outside the normal NCAA procedural process outlined by Article 32. Normally, an appeal cannot occur until a hearing has been conducted, and a decision has been rendered. The Paternos could conceivably circumvent the standard appeals process by arguing that the NCAA did not adhere to its own prescribed procedure, and therefore, an exception should be made allowing for an unconventional appeal as well. With no hearing, however, there can be no subsequent appeal of a decision based on the same.

Even assuming, arguendo, that an appeal would be permitted from a procedural standpoint, the family simply has no standing to appeal. Counsel for the Paterno family has stated the opposite, based on the fact that Joe Paterno’s name is found in the Freeh Report as well as the consent decree. This is a misguided assertion. For an “involved individual” such as Paterno to appeal, he would have had to make an in-person appearance before the Committee on Infractions. Bylaw 32.10.1.2. To reiterate, the Committee has never been involved here. The standing argument on behalf of a family of an affected individual is even more attenuated, as no member of the Paterno family would even qualify as an involved individual. To analogize: would the NCAA allow the family of an ineligible student-athlete to bring its own appeal to the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee for related pecuniary or reputational damage? Clearly not.

The Paterno family’s hopes of recompense in a court of law may be equally slim. The Paternos may bring suit on behalf of the late Joe Paterno seeking toprohibit the NCAA from vacating his wins, and ordering the NCAA to follow its own procedures, thereby invalidating the consent decree. The Paterno family could contend that the consent decree is unenforceable as a whole because it had a significant adverse impact on Paterno as a third-party affected by a decree that neither Paterno nor his family consented to. But setting aside, for a moment, the fact that courts look with skepticism upon challenges to NCAA decisions, and separating the family’s claim from the arguments advanced by some members of the Board of Trustees, the Paternos simply cannot show sufficient harm warranting the issuance of an injunction against enforcement of the NCAA decision.

Pennsylvania courts will only grant a preliminary injunction when relief is necessary to prevent immediate and irreparable harm where the aggrieved party cannot be adequately compensated by damages. Summit Towne Ctr., Inc. v. Shoe Show of Rocky Mount, Inc., 786 A.2d 240 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2001).Courts have defined an injunction as an extraordinary remedy that should be issued with caution. Big Bass Lake Cmty. Ass’n v. Warren, 950 A.2d 1137, 1144-45 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2008).

By any discernable standard, the diminution of Paterno’s win total does not constitute a harm warranting redress, in part because Paterno’s reputation has already been significantly tarnished by the entire ordeal, but primarily because no “show cause” order was ever issued against Paterno. If the NCAA  had issued a show cause order as part of this major infractions case, the irreparable nature of harm would be more evident, since it would result in a loss of employment opportunity. See Sanchez v. Dubois, 291 F. App’x 187 (10th Cir. 2008) (holding that since the secondary infractions case was unpublished, there was no deprivation of a liberty interest, but suggesting that a show cause order preventing employment could be sufficient). But since the NCAA did not issue such an order, and given that Paterno has since passed, this argument becomes moot. Likewise, an equitable remedy would be unnecessary to prevent immediate future harm for the same reasons. Barring a successful challenge to the consent decree by the University, the Paterno family is likely going to be bound by its contents and its reputational effects.

The same conclusion is likely to be reached in the appeal filed by individual members of the Board of Trustees. The Board members contend that the NCAA violated their “fundamental” due process rights, but again, this is a misconceived notion. The Board members further argue that the consent decree is null and void since President Rodney Erickson lacked the legal capacity to agree to the sanctions and did not properly consult the Board. Even if true, this likely has no bearing on the NCAA’s ruling, and similarly, a court would likely find that Erickson was acting with apparent or actual authority to bind the University. The Board may elect to take internal action against Erickson and is well within its rights to do so, but it is difficult to foresee a scenario that would result in a re-adjudication of the punishment rendered against Penn State that would produce a more favorable result for Happy Valley. Given the reputational damage that the University has already suffered, perhaps that is for the best. 

As originally published on Sports Law Blog  Hat tip to law clerks Brian Konkel and Jane Kwak for their assistance on this piece.

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As to whether the punishment fit the crime in the imposition of punishment on current student-athletes and coaches that had no fault here, it is difficult to equate Jerry Sandusky's heinous actions and subsequent cover-up with standard NCAA violations that go to competitive advantage. Therefore, I can see why many people are having trouble with the punishment being levied against the innocent members of the football program in Happy Valley. Let's put that aside for the moment, though, to clear away some of what I consider to be misinformation and misinterpretations of this latest NCAA headline. In addition to punishment itself, Mark Emmert's executive declaration of Penn State's punishment on Monday left many on the sidelines enraged over (1) a lack of "due process" and (2) setting a bad precedent for future NCAA enforcement matters. As to (1), "due process" is not accorded to member institutions in the NCAA process, and I do not believe that (2) should concern current and future alleged rule-breakers in standard areas of violation such as recruiting, benefits, academic eligibility, amateurism, etc.


As to the due process issue, the NCAA administrative law process does not accord Federal or state constitutional due process protection for those parties that go through enforcement proceedings, be it student-athlete reinstatement (SAR) or infractions. The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that the NCAA is not a governmental actor and thus is not obligated to provide due process. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n v. Tarkanian, 488 U.S. 179, 179 (1988). The NCAA is a private association made up of members that include schools and conferences. Those schools and conferences agreed to abide by the Association rules, including potential punishments for violations of Association rules, analogous to a country club and its members. (Bylaw 3.3.4.1). Schools and conferences are voluntary members of the NCAA, and therefore must abide by the associated rules and regulations. See, Hispanic Coll. Fund, Inc. v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 826 N.E.2d 652 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005) (holding that the NCAA’s decisions regarding organization were not subject to trial court’s review absent allegations of fraud or illegality, because the organization was a voluntary member of NCAA). Furthermore, “[t]he articles of incorporation and bylaws of a not-for-profit corporation are generally considered to be a contract between the corporation and its members and among the members themselves.” Id, at 658. Therefore, member schools are under an enforceable contract with the NCAA and subject to its rules, regulations, and any punishment it may sentence. Bylaw 19.5.2 lists all the appropriate penalties for major violations, including (l): other penalties as appropriate. 

Courts have been, and remain, reluctant to accept challenges to the substance of NCAA enforcement decisions; the Oliver case being one of the few exceptions. See e.g. Justice v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 577 F. Supp. 356 (D. Ariz. 1983) (upholding NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations and denying student-athletes’ constitutiona land antitrust claims); but see Oliver v. Natl. Collegiate Athletic Assn., 2008-Ohio-7144, 155 Ohio Misc. 2d 1, 920 N.E.2d 190. Further, membership must tread lightly in either going to court to challenge a decision or, more likely, abiding by a court ruling overturning a NCAA decision pursuant to injunctive relief sought by a student-athlete, since the NCAA reserves the right to punish a member institution should an appellate court later reverse alower court’s ruling overturning a NCAA decision. See, e.g. Nat’l CollegiateAthletic Ass’n v. Jones, 1 S.W.3d 83 (Tex. 1999) (holding that the NCAA’s appeal from an injunction granted at the trial court level was not moot as to the applicability of retroactive penalties). Challenges to the NCAA administrative law process are for when the NCAA is not following its own “fair process.” So, the question applicable to Penn State is whether the NCAA did, in fact, follow its own fair process. 

The fair process established by the NCAA can be found in Article 32. From start to finish, including investigations and hearings, the infractions process takes over a year in most cases. The process includes a preliminary investigation, the possibility of summary-disposition, notice of inquiry, notice of allegation, institution investigation, written responses to the allegation, hearing, final Committee report and possible appeal. For example, allegations of impermissible recruiting and student-athletes receiving benefits from professional agents at the University of South Carolina first came to light in July 2010. The Public Infractions Report was issued two years later on April 27, 2012. On the other hand, the overall process with Penn State took about nine months. 

However, with Penn State, the NCAA did not follow the infractions process established in Article 32. So, does the NCAA's failure to follow its already-established process of investigation, enforcement, hearing, deliberation, decision, and possible appeal violate the fair process that it is bound to follow? Yes and no. A "quick look" analysis reveals that punishment was delivered by the NCAA President without regard for the existing NCAA enforcement structure; something not specifically articulated in NCAA bylaws, and certainly not something for which we see any precedent. However, the only party with standing to challenge the NCAA's declaration is Penn State, and Penn State consented to this punishment; ergo we now have a moot challenge.

As someone who regularly represents parties in NCAA processes, knowing what information is public thus far, if I am Penn State, I do not think going through the infractions process would have been a better process for the Penn State community. Sure, the punishments might not have been as severe, but Jerry Sandusky's actions were not just corruptions of the NCAA's principles of amateurism, competitive fairness, and academic integrity, but acts of profound evil. As such, as the infractions process drags on, Sandusky's acts and any cover-up of those acts would be continually relived. Further, there is a cost in terms of counsel like myself to be involved in the process. Let's go back to the South Carolina example. The school said that it spent $535,667.50 in connection with the NCAA investigation. Finally, as to those who believe that Penn State would find relief only at the appellate level in the infractions process, there is no guarantee that Penn State would have taken the case this far. My friend, Jerry R. Parkinson, who served as a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions from 2000 until very recently (including service as the committee’s first coordinator of appeals), cited in a law review article that only thirty-four of the ninety major infractions cases that went to a hearing from 2000 to 2009 were appealed. 

While I believe the less controversial route would have been an expedited infractions process that would necessarily include a summary disposition (the July 12, 2012 Freeh Report helps in this regard), for the Penn State community to heal, I have to think ripping the band-aid off quickly in the manner done here with Emmert's decision yesterday, while not ideal, is preferable to a drawn out infractions process.

Reposted with permission - orginally posted July 25, 2012 on Sports Law Blog 

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