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

Sports Law Outline
Regulating Intercollegiate Athletics
A.      The Student-Athlete and University Relationship
Contractual Aspects
Taylor v. Wake Forest (express contract)
–      Taylor’s written contract says he’ll maintain eligibility for play under Conference and institutional rules.
o   Scholastic eligibility = requirements of Wake Forest
o   Physical eligibility = participation in athletics
o   Refusing to participate physical eligibility req. w/o injury = noncompliance w/ agreement
–      An express contract may come from:
o   Statement of financial assistance, college agrees to provide financial aid to student athlete (tuition, fees, books, board) to assist in pursuit of program of study and participate in educational process of college
o   National Letter of Intent
o   University Publications and bulletins
–      Rule: 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).
–      Rule:  One year term according to conditions of Statement of Financial aid and National Letter of Intent (if signed).
NCAA Bylaw, Article 15
–      Financial add for (1) year
–      Reduction or cancellation during year cannot be based on athletic ability UNLESS
o   Ineligible (i.e. academics)
o   Serious misconduct
o   Voluntarily withdraws
–      Renewals
o   Happen on or before July 1 before academic year
o   Hearing before financial aid committee
–      Rule:  One year term according to conditions of Statement of Financial aid and National Letter of Intent (if signed).
Text of National Letter of Intent
–      High school students sign letter of intent  agreeing to attend institution for one year in exchange for the institutions written promise to provide athletics financial aid for entire academic year provided
o   Student is admitted to institution AND
o   Student is eligible for athletics aid under NCAA rules
–      Limitations of NLI
o   If student signs letter, she can no longer be recruited by another NLI school
o   Still bound if coach leaves institution.
o   No additions or deletions allowed to NLI.
o   No contact with Coach/Institution at signing.
o   14-day signing deadline
–      Protections of NLI
o   Can be released by Athletics Director (not coach) signing a Qualified Release Agreement.
o   No requirement to sign NLI
–      Penalty: may not participate for two years
–      Rule:  One year term according to conditions of Statement of Financial aid and National Letter of Intent (if signed).
Ross v. Creighton University (121-25)
–      Ross says Creighton knew he wasn’t qualified academically, BUT it promised he could participate in meaningful way b/c it would provide specific services to him.
–      The promise to provide access to education by providing special services must be meaningful.  Court looks at whether school provided any real access to curriculum.
–      Breach of K claim requires identifiable contractual promise not honored.
–      Rule:  The contract requires legitimate access to the institution’s academic curriculum (Ross).
Jackson v. Drake University (126-130)
–      Whether financial aid agreement created contractual right to play sport.
–      No tort claim in this case, but could continue with misrepresentation and fraud claim.
–      Rule:  Courts are generally unwilling to read in implicit terms (such as the right to play basketball) into the contractual relationship between student-athlete and university (Jackson).
NCAA Bylaw, Article 14 (137-39)
Student-Athletes as Employees: Waldrep v. Texas Employers Ins. Assn. (141-150) Skipped?
Liberty or Property Interests of Student-Athletes
Hysaw v. Washburn University of Topeka (152-60)
–      Black players argue that white players w/ equal or less ability given greater opportunities to make more beneficial scholarship Ks and participate in football program.  They argue property interest in contractual right to play football at Wash U.
–      Alleged Claims:
o   Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (equal rights)
o   Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (civil action for deprivation of rights)
§  Property interests, must come from independent source (like state law)
·         Example:  scholarship agreements = right to scholarship $
·         Unilateral expectations are not a legitimate property interests, thus, no right to pursue football career
§  Liberty interests, must show legitimate interest in right from independent source of law
·         Right to pursue a football career does not count (remember defamatory statements made by gov’t employee)
§  First Amendment interests
o   Breach of contract
–      Rule: Student-athletes have property interests in their scholarships, but no liberty or property interests related to participation in college athletics outside of the scholarship agreement (Hysaw).
Conard v. University of Washington (161-69)
–      UW would not renew financial aid if finding of serious misconduct, which was decided from UW student code and team rules
–      Broad guidelines do not create a mutually explicit understanding as to disputed issues
–      Rule: Student-athletes do not have a protected property interest in the renewal of their athletic scholarships (Conard).
B.     First Amendment Rights Issues
First Amendment and the Media:
Bilney v. The Evening Star (171-75)
–      Paper publishes grades of basketball team players
–      Public figures cannot complain of negative publicity
o    One who has prominent role in general social, economic, cultural, public interest
–      Rule:  Student-athletes do not have expectation of privacy as to their academic records (Bilney).
 Religious Liberty Issues: Problem 3-5 (176)
C.      Judicial Deference to the NCAA
Constitutional and Statutory Matters
NCAA v. Tarkanian (177-85)
–      Tark alleges § 1983 claim against NCAA. Court determines wh

–      A person with compliance responsibilities:
o   Fails to establish a proper system of compliance or
o   Fails to monitor that system of compliance
o   Fails to take steps when system of compliance is not working
–      Compliance supervisor divides responsibilities such that no one is in charge.
–      Compliance duties assigned to subordinate without authority to garner respect of others
–      The institution fails to:
o   Clarify that NCAA rules violators will be disciplined by the institution.
o   Clarify that any involved with intercollegiate athletics have a duty to report violations.
o   Investigate an alleged violation (particularly by the AD)
–      Head coach
o   Fails to create atmosphere for compliance or
o   Monitor assistant coaches regarding compliance.
NCAA Regulations Section 10 and 11 on Ethical Conduct and Conduct of Athletics Personnel
o   Unethical conduct includes refusal to give information to investigation or potential violation of NCAA regulation when requested by NCAA
Minnesota Public Infractions Appeals Comm. Report (208-16)
o   Bylaw 32.10.2 provides that:
§  A finding of violation by the COI may be set aside on appeal only if the Infraction Appeals Committee determines that:
·         The finding is clearly contrary to the evidence presented to the committee
·         The facts found do not constitute a violation
·         A procedural error affected the reliability of the information used to support the finding
–      NCAA Regulations, Sections 6 and 10 (217-18)
o   6.4 Responsibilities for Actions of Outside Entities, institution may be responsible for acts of individuals if:
§  Knowledge, or
§  Should have knowledge of individual
§  Example:  financial contributions
o   13.01.05 Recruiting by Representative, representatives of institution’s athletics interest cannot contact prospect or prospect’s parents/guardians
–      Univ. of Alabama Public Infractions Committee Report (219-28)
o   IAC only sets aside findings where information that would have resulting in a different result clearly outweighed the information upon which the COI based its findings
o   Potential penalty: 
§  ban on post-season competition
§  death penalty
§  post-season competition but no financial reward
o   Institution may mitigate chances of death penalty by being forthcoming with information and cooperating