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Sports Law
University of Mississippi School of Law
Berry, William W.

Sports Law
William Berry
Fall 2014
1.      Infield Fly and Statutory Interpretation
n  “To prevent the defense from making a double play by subterfuge, at a time when the offense is helpless to prevent it, rather than by skill and speed.”
n  Four “factors”
n  The “Sporting” approach to baseball – no “trickery”
n  Creation of formal and legalistic rules
n  Power of umpire … equity
n  Incremental approach; formalism altered in the name of justice
·         Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder— not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire’’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.
o   When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.
·         OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
o   Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
2.      Amateur Sports
a.      Taylor v. Wake Forest- The NLI
·         “In the event of any conflict between educational achievement and athletic involvement, participation in athletic activities could be limited or eliminated to the extent necessary to assure reasonable academic progress.”
·          “As long as his grade average equaled … the requirements of Wake Forest, he was maintaining his scholastic eligibility for athletics.  Participation [in athletics] … was required to maintain his physical eligibility.  When he refused to do so in the absence of any injury or excuse other than to devote more time to his studies, he was not complying with his contractual obligations.”
o   The relationship between the student-athlete and the university is a contractual one, with the express contract requiring participation by the athlete as a condition to the institution’s obligation to provide aid (Taylor).
·         The SA Relationship as an Express Contract Arising Out of:
o   The Statement of Financial Assistance
o   National Letter of Intent (NLI)
o   University Publications and Bulletins
·         The Statement of Financial Assistance
o   Pursuant to the Statement of Financial Assistance, the college agrees to extend financial aid to student-athletes to the extent of:
§  Tuition
§  Fees
§  Board
§  Books
§  [Up to a $2000 annual stipend (school’s discretion)][proposed but not yet adopted by the NCAA] o   Stated purpose: to assist and enable student-athletes to pursue a program of study and to participate in the educational process of the institution
·         NCAA Bylaw, Article 15
o   One year limit for financial aid (now amended, can award multi-year scholarships)
o   Reduction or Cancellation during year:
§  Cannot be based on athletic ability
§  Only if:
·         Ineligible
·         Serious misconduct
·         Voluntarily withdraws
o   Renewals
§  On or before July 1 prior to the academic year
§  Hearing before FA committee (not AD or FAC)
·         The NLI
·         High school students (recruits) may sign a letter of intent agreeing to attend the institution for one year in exchange for the institution's promise, in writing, to provide you athletics financial aid for the entire academic year, provided that:
o   1.  You are admitted to the institution AND
o   2.  You are eligible for athletics aid under NCAA rules.
·         A signed letter of intent also means that the student can no longer be recruited by any other National Letter of Intent school.
·         No requirement to sign NLI
·         Penalty: May not participate for two years
·         Can be released by Athletics Director (not coach) signing a Qualified Release Agreement.
·         Still bound if coach leaves institution.
·         No additions or deletions allowed to NLI.
·         No contact with Coach/Institution at signing.
·         14-day signing deadline
·         Ross v. Creighton
o   No tort of educational malpractice because:
§  Difficulty of establishing uniform std. of care
§  Causation issues inherently problematic
§  Potential for flood of litigation
§  No tort of negligent admission because:
·         No way to determine workable duty of care
·         Unduly interferes with admissions
o   If tort liability, only admit those students certain to succeed
o   To state a claim for breach of contract, plaintiff must do more than simply allege that the education was not good enough.  Instead, he must point to an identifiable contractual promise that the defendant failed to honor.”
o    “To adjudicate the claim, the court would not be required to determine whether Creighton had breached its contract … by providing deficient academic services.  Rather, its inquiry would be limited to whether the University had provided any real access to its academic curriculum at all.”
o   The contract requires legitimate access to the institution’s academic curriculum (Ross).
·         Hysaw v. Washburn U of Topeka
o   Claims:
§  Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981
§  Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
·         Property interests
·         Lib

eason to claim unfairness in applying constitutional standards to it.”
§  The TSSAA’s regulatory activity “may and should be treated as state action owing to a pervasive entwinement of state school officials in the structure of the association, there being no offsetting reason to see the association’s act in any other way.”
·         Because of the comingled nature of the TSSAA and school officials, it counted as a state actor.
o   NCAA v. Smith
§  Title IX proscribes sex discrimination in “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
§  The Postbaccalaureate Bylaw – “allows a postgraduate student to participate in intercollegiate athletics only at the institution that awarded her undergraduate degree…”
§  “The … conclusion that the NCAA would be subject to the requirements of Title IX if it received dues from federally funded members is inconsistent with … precedent.  [T]here is no allegation that NCAA members paid their dues with federal funds earmarked for that purpose.  At most, the Association’s receipt of dues demonstrates that it indirectly benefits from the federal assistance afforded its members.  This showing, without more, is insufficient to trigger Title IX coverage.”
§  Because it does not receive “federal financial assistance,” the NCAA cannot be sued under Title IX (NCAA v. Smith).
o   Brennan v. Bd. Trustees
§  While the court [has] recognized that the drug testing program impacts privacy interests, it [has] reasoned that there is no constitutional violation when the student-athletes' lower expectations of privacy were balanced against the NCAA's countervailing interests.”
§  “Drug testing has become a highly visible, pervasive, and well accepted part of athletic competition, particularly on intercollegiate and professional levels. It is a reasonably expected part of the life of an athlete, especially one engaged in advanced levels of competition, where the stakes and corresponding temptations are high.
§  “The student athlete's reasonable expectation of privacy is further diminished by two elements of the NCAA's drug testing program — advance notice and the opportunity to consent to testing.”
§  “However, it is clear that participation in intercollegiate athletics is not a property right, but is a privilege not protected by Constitutional due process safeguards.”
§  Student-athletes have no privacy, property, or liberty interests that prevent their institutions from implementing NCAA drug testing (Brennan)