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

Sports Law: Berry; Fall 2016

Student Athlete and University Relationship

Taylor v. Wake Forest

Oral statement: “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.”

Written contract: “I agree to maintain eligibility for intercollegiate athletics under both Conference and Institutional rules. Training rules for intercollegiate athletics are considered rules of the Institution, and I agree to abide by them.”

“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.”

HOLDING: 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).

An Express Contract

Arising out of:

The Statement of Financial Assistance
National Letter of Intent (NLI)
University Publications and Bulletins

The Statement of Financial Assistance

Pursuant to the Statement of Financial Assistance, the college agrees to extend financial aid to student-athletes to the extent of:





Cost of attendance

Stated purpose: to assist and enable student-athletes to pursue a program of study and to participate in the educational process of the institution

True Cost of Attendance

15.02.5 Full Grant-in-Aid.A full grant-in-aid is financial aid that consists of tuition and fees, room and board, books, and other expenses related to attendance at the institution up to the cost of attendance established pursuant to Bylaws 15.02.2 and

Between $2000 and $5000 per student / year. Application to Autonomy Conferences. A member institution of one of the five conferences named in Constitution shall use a full grant-in-aid in its equivalency computations as defined in Bylaw 15.02.5. The elements of a grant-in-aid are tuition and fees, room and board, books, and other expenses related to attendance at the institution. Application to Other Conferences. A member institution of a conference other than the five conferences named in Constitution may use a full grant-in-aid in its equivalency computations as defined in Bylaw 15.02.5 or one that consists of tuition and fees, room and board, and required course-related books, subject to the discretion of its conference pursuant to Constitution

NCAA Bylaw, Article 15

One-year minimum: Financial aid must be awarded just for 1 year; many schools offer multi-year scholarships

Reduction or cancellation during year:

Cannot be based on athletic ability

Only if:

Ineligible (i.e. academics)

Serious misconduct

Voluntarily withdraws


on or before July 1 prior to the academic year

Hearing before Financial Aid committee (not AD or FAC) Reduction or Nonrenewal Not Permitted — … the following factors shall not be considered in the reduction or nonrenewal of such aid for the following academic year or years of the student-athlete’s five-year period of eligibility:

(a) A student-athlete’s athletics ability, performance or contribution to a team’s success (e.g., financial aid contingent upon specified performance or playing a specific position);

(b) An injury, illness, or physical or mental medical condition; or

(c) Any other athletics reason.

Loss of Value Insurance Exception for Insurance Against Disabling Injury or Illness, or Loss of Value. [A] An individual may borrow against his or her future earnings potential from an established, accredited commercial lending institution exclusively for the purpose of purchasing insurance (with no cash surrender value) against a disabling injury or illness that would prevent the individual from pursuing a chosen career or for the purpose of purchasing loss-of-value insurance, provided a third party (including a representative of an institution’s athletics interests) is not involved in arrangements for securing the loan. However, an institution’s president or chancellor (or his or her designated representative from outside the department of athletics) may designate an institutional staff member (or staff members) (e.g., professional sports counseling panel) to assist a student-athlete with arrangements for securing the loan and insurance.

National Letter of Intent

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:

1.You are admitted to the institution AND

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 University

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

If tort liability, only admit those students certain to succeed

“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.”

“We read Mr. Ross’ complaint to allege more than a failure of the University to provide him with an education of a certain quality.Rather, he alleges that the University knew that he was not qualified academically to participate in its curriculum.Nevertheless, it made a specific promise that he would be able to participate in a meaningful way in the program because it would provide certain specific services to him.”

“To adjudicate the claim, the court would not be required to determine whether Creighton had bre

nal organization
NCAA –bylaw = clear line between amateur and pro
No-agent rule
12.3.2 = exception to no-agent rule – athlete can consult with attorney, but attorney cannot consult team.
“But no entity, other than that one designated by the state, can dictate an attorney where, what, how, or when he should represent his client.”

RULE: Injunction to prohibit enforcement of no-agent rule was proper where conduct in violation involved conduct by attorney in communicating with professional organization

Academic Reform Generally

Core requirements
ACT/SAT sliding scale with HS GPA for eligibility
Standards continue to increase

Academic Progress Rate

Snapshot of academic progress of student athletes
If eligible, athletes gets 1 point/ semester
Max points= 1000 points per team
Benchmark= 925 points
Below benchmark= loss of scholarships and postseason

Amateurism and Academics do not mix because of the load of the sports

NCAA Bylaw 14

Rules require students achieve certain academic benchmarks to remain academically eligible…

Eligibility thus depends on passing a minimum number of hours per semester.

NCAA Regulatory Authority and State Action: Judicial Deference to the NCAA

Hysaw v. Washburn University of Topeka


Violation of 42 U.S.C section 1981

(a) Statement of equal rights

All persons … shall have the same right … to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.

“They claim … white players with equal or less ability were given greater opportunities to make more beneficial scholarship contracts and were allowed greater opportunities to participate in the Washburn football program.”
Violation of 42 U.S.C Section 1983

Civil action for depravation of rights: “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage … subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress …”
“Property rights ‘are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules that stem from an independent source such as state law.’ Only after a protectable property interest has been established do we then determine whether due process was afforded.”