Tuesday , November 21 2017
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Legal news and analysis of collegiate athletics.

The Curious Case of Ed O’Bannon: How the NCAA Managed to Lose Almost Every Point in the Landmark Case and Still Avoid Having to Make Any Sweeping Changes.

On Friday, August 8, the first decision in a wave of litigation against the NCAA hit the shores. The decision by Judge Claudia Wilken of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California is both important and intriguing. The decision is the first time in major litigation that a court has not given deference to the NCAA’s commitment to amateurism when those regulations seem to conflict with antitrust laws. The decision has been hailed by many as “the death of amateurism;” however, a close analysis will show that statement to be a minor exaggeration. In reality, it will merely force the NCAA to make better and more reasoned arguments for what it does.

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A New (and Improved?) NCAA Governance

In a landmark 16-2 vote today, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted to give the Power Five Conferences (the 65 schools of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, PAC-12, and SEC) more autonomy and the ability to make their own decisions over certain aspects of the collegiate model.[i] These conferences will now be able to initiate legislative changes of their own, which could start as soon as October 1 to get into the legislative cycle for April voting.

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Dr. Enforcement: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love NCAA Interpretive Flexibility

The NCAA announced a new interpretive philosophy. If this philosophy works, everyone wins. Student-athletes will likely receive more minimal participation benefits without having to pay back paltry amounts. Compliance offices can actually say yes to coaches and staff members more often, without the NCAA second-guessing the institution. Lastly, the NCAA’s small and overburdened enforcement staff can relax in the knowledge that they will see less violations (stupid or just minimal) cross their desks. But if the philosophy doesn’t work, the NCAA could devolve into interpretive chaos, and just become another thorn in the organization’s side.

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Could the NCAA Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status?

Football players at Northwestern have cast their union votes. Beyond the outcome of that vote, much uncertainty remains. If the status of scholarship athletes as employees is confirmed on appeal, what does it do to their status as amateur athletes? For student athletes who choose to unionize, what additional benefits/compensation will they seek, and what effect with that have on their amateur statuses? And what effect will these developments have on the tax-exempt status of the NCAA and its member institutions? As you’ll see, the answer to these questions may all be up to the NCAA itself.

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Company Towns, Finance, and the Sensationalist Zeitgeist Against the NCAA

The comparison of the NCAA to a Plantation is sensationalist and inappropriate. A more apt comparison is to that of the Company Town. This post takes a deeper look at the money in collegiate athletics.

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Shabazz Napier: The Agent of Change (Not Quite)

Among a number of new proposals adopted on Tuesday, the NCAA has approved unlimited snacks and meals as a benefit incidental to participation for student-athletes.[1] Many are looking at this new legislation as a panicked response to Shabazz Napier’s speech against the NCAA after the National Championship. The NCAA isn’t sitting up there, sweating (well they are, but not over this), thinking “Oh no, a visible figure in one of our money sports has exposed an unjust chink in our armor!” This change has been long in the making, starting with the infamous fruits, nuts, and bagels interpretation.

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Guilty By Association: Joint Employer Doctrine and Why the NCAA Should Tread Lightly Regarding the Northwestern NLRB Decision

So the Chicago regional office of the NLRB ruled that Northwestern is an employer and that its football players are employees who may elect to form a union. The decision however did not directly address the NCAA. At first glance the NCAA may not be bound by this decision since it is not labeled as the “employer.” However, what is to stop the NCAA from deploying its nuclear option and simply creating a bylaw stating that any player in a union or any player who is an “employee” is ineligible for competition. Well, there are two main obstacles, one from a practical perspective, and another from the legal side. Let’s begin with the legal element.

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Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner: Why the NLRB Decision is a Far Cry From Taking Down the NCAA

The National Labor Relations Board decided in favor of Northwestern football players’ right to unionize by saying scholarship players are “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act. While this has been considered a Midway-esque victory in what could be a shift in the landscape of college athletics under the NCAA banner, we are still far off from realizing a college athlete union. Standing in the way of scholarship athletes and “complete victory” are: (1) State-labor laws, (2) an appeal by Northwestern (3) Title IX, (4) the U.S. Tax Code, and of course, (5) the NCAA itself. Before you celebrate the demise of the current NCAA model, consider the difficult road ahead and the possibility that the Board’s decision will be overturned or severely limited.

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Unionizing Student Athletes: An Overview of What Lies Ahead

The biggest news yesterday in the sports law world was of course that Northwestern’s Kain Colter is seeking to unionize his fellow members of the Wildcat football team. While this is certainly a big deal, it is a long way from coming to fruition and is fraught with obstacles that must be overcome. Moreover, unionizing college athletes will also open a pandora’s box of secondary issues that will have to be addressed. Tax-exemptions, Title-IX, the O’Bannon antitrust suit, and a slew of other issues will have to be addressed if the landscape of collegiate-athletics is overhauled by unionizing the players.

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Down the Rabbit Hole: The Unlikely and Fantastical Theory of a College Sports Union

Northwestern and the NCAA have both made statements regarding this attempt to unionize, with vastly different tones and acceptances. Northwestern offered the opinion that its students are “leaders and independent thinkers.” They subtly show their hand in approving the move by throwing out that they are proud of their students and this action exemplifies the institution’s teachings (well, either that or they are trying to solely emphasize the word independent in a way to say “NCAA leave us out of this, it isn’t us).

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