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N.C.A.A. Ban on Lawyers for Athletes Ruled Illegal

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by YankeeFan, Feb 12, 2009.

  1. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    February 13, 2009
    N.C.A.A. Ban on Lawyers for Athletes Ruled Illegal

    An Ohio court ruling on Thursday could markedly alter negotiations between Major League Baseball draft picks and their teams if it withstands appeal.

    Erie County Judge Tygh M. Tone ruled that an N.C.A.A. rule, which renders a student-athlete ineligible for collegiate competition if he or she has a lawyer present during contract negotiations, was illegal because it interfered with an athlete’s right to legal representation.

    Tone called the ban “arbitrary and capricious.”

    The rule was being contested by Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Oliver, who was declared ineligible by university officials last May after Oliver’s status became an issue with the N.C.A.A. Oliver, after being drafted out high school, had his lawyer present at negotiations with the Minnesota Twins.

    In August, a judge granted Oliver a temporary restraining order restoring his eligibility to pitch for the Cowboys. Tone’s decision makes the injunction permanent eight days before Oklahoma State’s season begins.

    “These people were trying to destroy this kid,” said Oliver’s lawyer, Richard G. Johnson, referring to the N.C.A.A. “The implications for Andy is he gets to play baseball. He gets his life back. And for the 360,000 student-athletes in the N.C.A.A., it’s the tip of the iceberg that they actually have legal rights. They have the opportunity to consult counsel when entering a contract.”

    The N.C.A.A. responded in a statement: “We are disappointed in the judge’s ruling. The bylaws related to agent relationships are important principles our colleges and universities have established to protect and preserve amateurism standards. We intend to seek a review of the decision by a higher court, and we are hopeful these significant standards will be preserved.”

    Baseball draft picks and teams have danced around the rule regarding agents ever since representatives started working with draft picks in the late 1970s. Agents and club officials routinely discuss contract terms for players in varying levels of detail, whether in person, on the phone or via fax and e-mail. In one instance, as negotiations between club officials and a player’s family took place in a hotel room, an agent had an associate listen with a glass up against the wall of an adjoining room.

    Only occasionally have teams complained to the N.C.A.A., and only a few players have been disciplined with either suspension or ineligibility. However, the ability to have an agent unabashedly negotiate contract terms can only help the player’s leverage.

    Thursday’s ruling dealt with a narrow slice of the N.C.A.A. ban against agents that forbids a lawyer from being present during negotiations or having direct contact with a team. It did not speak to agents who were not lawyers, a distinction that now begs clarification.

    “We haven’t seen the end of this,” said Tom Reich, a player agent for almost 40 years. “A guy should be allowed to have protection. He may not know the implications of different clauses and things. He may commit to things without full knowledge or full disclosure. People have lawyers for that reason. But what’s the difference between an attorney and an agent? That has to be examined.”

    It also remains to be seen how far the ruling will reach. Although Tone wrote that the overturned attorney restriction was “against the public policy of the State of Ohio as well as all states within this Union,” it was unclear what effect it could or would have on players in other states.

    The judge also sternly rebuked an N.C.A.A. rule which could penalize a university or a student for complying with the terms of a court injunction if that injunction was later reversed on appeal.

    “Student-athletes must have their opportunity to access the court system without fear of punitive actions being garnered against themselves or their institutions and teams of which they belong,” Tone wrote, adding that the rule “takes the rule of law as governed by the courts in this nation and gives it to an unincorporated business association.”

  2. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Reich is correct. This could open up a whole bunch of issues in terms of agents. Athletes could argue that they have the right to have a representative to negotiate on their behalf with a university. And there's already the precedent of coaches having agents and lawyers.

    I can see this heading to the Supreme Court. And if I'm the NCAA, I'd be pretty worried. Their whole monopoly might just explode.
  3. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    If the NCAA is smart on this one, they'll just punt.

    The right to competent legal counsel is one of the most fundamental ones in the Consitution.

    Their only hope would be that judges ruling on the case are so utterly gulled by the charming "amateurism" of college sports, they feel compelled to uphold and perpetuate the status quo. Or maybe they just have season tickets at Ole Alma Mater U.
  4. The NCAA just got beaten with a 50-pound stupid stick.
    Nice to see.
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    buh... buh... buh... Myles Brand is a forward thinker who only does good for athletes....
  6. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Awesome. Hopefully, this emboldens athletes and their representatives to review a slew of NCAA regs as they relate to the mythical notion of amateurism.
  7. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    The last thing in the world the NCAA wants is for scholarship athletes to have access to competent legal counsel. Think about it.
  8. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    Athletes already have access to legal counsel and can sue the NCAA. There's nothing new about that.

    This ruling only pertained to using a lawyer in contract negotiations with a pro team.

    Love to see how this would affect a scholarship situation though. If it's ruled that a kid can have a lawyer negotiate an athletic scholarship then there's no reason another kid couldn't have a lawyer negotiate an academic scholarship.

    It'll be funny to watch all the anti-athletics folks in the academic world jump to the defense of the NCAA if that happens.
  9. Kato

    Kato Active Member

    For years, college hockey players who have been drafted (and many who haven't) have had so-called "family advisers," essentially lawyer/agents working pro bono on behalf of the player and his parents. They're always around the rinks, talking to players after games, etc. (as are pro scouts, by the way), yet this never seems to be a problem. From what I've understood, it's not against the rules. Of course, if and when those players do ink a deal, the advisers are no longer working for free.
  10. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    The NCAA has no right to interfere with, or even know the nature of, ANY discussions between a student and his legal representative. Otherwise known as the "attorney-client privilege."
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