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Sports Law
West Virginia University School of Law
Cummings, Andre Douglas Pond

Amateur Sports Law Outline – Spring 2004

I. Legal Relationships in Sports

NCAA Structure

Within the NCAA, there are separate divisions for members

Three Divisions: Division I, Division II, and Division III

Division I is composed of the major athletic powers in the country, as well as many other institutions that choose to compete at the major college level

Division I is divided into Division I-A and Division I-AA for purposes of regulating football

The members govern the organization through the establishment of rules designed to further its purposes and goals
The operating structure is that of three federations:

Day to day operation of the organization is overseen by the 20 member Executive Committee

Composed of institutional CEOs charged with ensuring that each division operates with the purpose, policies and principles of the association

NCAA also has a permanent professional staff, with individual departments for administration, business, championships, communications, communications, compliance service programs, legislative services and publishing

Jurisdiction and Responsibilities of the NCAA

Duties include athlete eligibility, recruiting, championships, rules of competition, and enforcement
The professional staff administers the rules and regulations of the association
Membership Services oversees the bulk of the administration
The enforcement department handles the investigation and prosecution of violation of the rules
Two concepts of the NCAA:

(1) Those relating to amateurism

All NCAA student athletes are to be amateurs and the association’s regulations set out explicit definitions of amateurism and specific prohibitions on the acceptance of extra benefits
Getting “paid” involves more than just the obvious salary or stipend

It is a violation of the rules for benefits to be provided to parents or close relatives of student athletes

Amateur status is forfeited when an athlete retains an agent or declares himself eligible for a professional sports draft (Note: NBA Draft)
There are also restrictions on promotional activities that benefit athletes because of their athletic abilities
There are restrictions on employment for athletes on full scholarship

(2) The importance of education

The associations establishes standards for initial eligibility of athletes entering the institutions, including specific thresholds for standardized tests and satisfactory completion of a minimum number of core courses in high school
NCAA also sets forth specific requirements for “satisfactory progress towards a degree” that athletes must maintain

Student athletes typically have four years of eligibility, and must complete them in five years

NCAA Rules limit recruiting

Number of visits by coaches, the number of visits to campuses by athletes, number and types of contacts made by coaches, the times of year that contacts may be made
Restrict the participation of alumni in recruiting

NCAA restrictions once athlete enrolled at institution

Number of hours for practice, times of year for competition, number of contests

NCAA bylaws require that each members control its program in a manner consistent with the rules and regulations of the association (The CEO of the institution has this ultimate responsibility)

The most serious violation the university can commit is “failure to maintain institutional control”

Athletes Rights

Rights Arising from the Athletic Scholarship

NCAA regulates the number of scholarships available and the terms of the scholarship
Taylor v. Wake Forest University

Facts: Taylor went to play football at Wake. He received terrible grades, and told his coach he would miss practice so he could study. His scholarship was terminated. Taylor sued for recovery of education expenses after his scholarship was terminated.

Taylor knew his scholarship was awarded for academic and athletic achievement
In consideration of this scholarship, Taylor agreed to maintain his athletic eligibility, and this meant both physically and scholastically
As long as his grades equaled or exceeded the requirements, he was maintaining his scholastic eligibility
Participation in and attendance at practice were required to maintain his physical eligibility
When Taylor refused to practice in the absence of any injury or excuse other than to devote more time to studies, he was not complying with his contractual obligations

Held: For Wake Forest

Ross v. Creighton University

Facts: Ross, a poor high school student took a basketball scholarship to Creighton. The school promised he would receive a “meaningful education.” Ross had a D average at the school, while taking many meaningless courses. He alleges the Athletic department advised him to take these courses, and his work was done for him. Ross asserts that the school failed to provide him with sufficient and competent tutoring, as it had promised. When he graduated he had skills equivalent to a child. He is suing the school for negligence and breach of contract in failing to educate him.
Ross’ Theories:

(1) Educational Malpractice

Courts defer to the schools’ decisions regarding academic qualifications of the students
The court bars any attempt to repackage an educational malpractice claim as a contract claim

(2) Creighton negligently inflicted emotional distress on him for employment after college
(3) Negligent Admission

Rejected by court because there are no adequate standards against which to measure such a claim

(4) Breach of Contract in failing to educate him

The basic relation between a student and a university is contractual in nature
To assert this claim, he must point to an identifiable contractual promise that the school failed to honor

The appeals court disagreed wit

ldrep v. Texas Employers Insurance Association

Facts: Waldrep played football for TCU where he severed an injury that paralyzed him. He filed a WC claim for his injury.

Is a student athlete on scholarship and employee of the school?

The letter of intent and financial aid agreements are contracts, but they only partially set forth the relationship between the student and the school
One may receive a benefit from another in return for services and not be an employee
An employee is a person in the service of another under a contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, whereby the employer has the right to direct the means or details of the work and not merely the result to be accomplished

Was there a contract for hire?

The NCAA does not consider the acceptance of financial aid from the school to be “taking pay”
Waldrep was not on the payroll, he was intended to participate at TCU as a student, not an employee
He could not be fired as an employee

Right to Direct the means of Waldrep’s work

To determine whether there is a right to control the court looks to the terms of the employment contract
Where there is no express contract, the exercise of control may be the best evidence available to show the actual terms of the contract
TCU did not have the right to direct or control all of Waldrep’s activities during his tenure at the school

Held: Waldrep was not an employee of TCU, and cannot get WC

Note: Schools are typically insured for claims against the university, which covers players who are injured during play

Coaching and Institutional Contracts

Coaching Contracts

Rodgers v. Georgia Tech Athletic Association

Facts: Rogers was head football coach at Georgia Tech. His contract provided him with certain prerequisites, which are incidental profits attaching to the position beyond a salary. Rogers was relieved of his head coaching position, but remained an employee of the school. He sues to recover these prerequisites.
Issue: Whether Rogers is entitled to recover the value of certain prerequisites or fringe benefits of his position as head football coach under the terms of his contract.