The NCAA is about to get slammed in the Andy Oliver case

I’ve practiced law in Columbus, Ohio for nearly eleven years. I don’t know if I’ve learned all that much over that time, but I have learned a couple of things. First, even if your office has a casual policy, always keep a suit hanging on the back of the door, because you never know when you’re going to get called down to court. Second, bring extra copies of everything with you when you go to court, because clerks and bailiffs have way more important things to do than to make copies for you, and they will hurt you in insidious ways if you’re not nice to them. Third, when you appear before judges in smaller counties, do not, under any circumstances, act as though their orders are not as important as the orders from big city courts, because they really, really don’t like that:

An Ohio judge has ordered the N.C.A.A. to appear in court later this month to explain why it has apparently not followed an order that invalidated the organization’s ban on the use of lawyers by baseball players during negotiations with professional teams.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, Erie County Judge Tygh M. Tone found that the N.C.A.A. is most likely in “indirect civil and criminal contempt” of a February court order that found the ban was illegal because it interfered with an athlete’s right to legal representation. In April, an Ohio appellate court ruled that an N.C.A.A. appeal of the order was premature because the case had not yet concluded.

The problem, basically, is that despite Judge Tone telling the NCAA otherwise, the NCAA is still out there telling high school baseball players that they’ll lose eligibility if they hire a lawyer to negotiate with Major League teams who draft them. Ignoring a judge’s order like that is just the sort of thing that really makes a judge mad.

It’s also the sort of thing that shows you just how arrogant and oblivious to reality the NCAA is.

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  1. Brandon Isleib said...

    Having taken Sports Law in the fall from one of the NCAA Infraction Committee’s recent board members, I’ll agree with your last conclusion because he would too.  It was a kinda depressing class in some ways – nothing like your highly qualified professor who just got out of the NCAA saying “don’t go into sports law.  It’s awful.”

    On the plus side, it was the class that let me talk about Bob Horner and call it learning.

  2. Richard in Dallas said...


    Please take no personal offense, but lawyers’ constant presence is a big chunk of what is wrong with baseball.  Just as with steroids, the use of lawyers to get the highest possible return on your professional involvement in the sport is something that all feel the pressure to do because so many others do.  Fortunately, the use of lawyers does not take years off of your life. 
    That being said, I applaud the judge’s order to have the NCAA back off of their ridiculous stance that being represented by an attorney does not preclude your retaining amateur status if you don’t sign a contract and accept no money.  All they’re trying to do is to hold on to their best players and turn collegiate baseball into the cash cow that football and basketball are, thanks to prohibitive backroom agreements that they have with the largest professional leagues in those sports.  Hopefully, baseball will continue to allow the best high school players to be eligible for its draft, unlike the NFL and NBA.  Contrary to popular(?) belief, a college education does NOT give a naturally gifted athlete the skills to compete at the highest levels of a sport.  True, the time spent there may be a convenient stall tactic to allow the young man (or woman) to mature physically and/or emotionally to be better prepared for the journey that they are about to embark on, but that is not necessarily the need of every 18 year old athlete.  It may also help them develop their talent into skills which are more marketable, but a kid with a 95MPH fastball and a hard-breaking slider is probably better than half the pitchers now drawing a paycheck in the major leagues.  Why not allow them to have a chance to get paid for their skills?  If they have overestimated their own value, or get drafted by someone that they don’t want to be involved with, they should be allowed to go ahead to college, and reenter the draft at a later date, and hopefully their value will increase with time, or they’ll be selected by an organization that is more to their liking…

    The NCAA, to my understanding, is there primarily to protect the athletes.  How is discouraging them from making millions of dollars protecting them?

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    “the use of lawyers to get the highest possible return on your professional involvement in the sport is something that all feel the pressure to do because so many others do.”

    I agree with most of your points, Richard, but that quoted bit stuck out.  Just because everyone’s doing something doesn’t make it lemming-linke behavior. The reason people need representation in these situations—be it from a lawyer or a non-JD possessing agent—is that the clubs have 100+ years of legal advice and experience behind them when they sit down in a kid’s living room. They’re weilding complicated contracts that dictate the manner in which the next six years of his life will proceed. To not have someone there to help you interpret and give perspective to the offers with which you are presented would be a grave disservice to the kid’s interests.

    We all think Scott Boras holding negotiations hostage whenever agents are mentioned.  From what I have gathered, he’s the exception, not the rule.

  4. Roger Moore said...

    @Richard in Dallas:

    The NCAA, to my understanding, is there primarily to protect the athletes.

    No.  The NCAA likes to pretend that it is there primarily to protect the athletes.  It’s really there to protect the interests of its member universities.  One of the interests it’s protecting is the universities interests in making lots of money from athletics.  A major part of that is keeping the athletes as powerless as possible.  Denying them access to legal advice is a great example.  It’s very hard to see how keeping an 18 year old from talking to a lawyer before making a decision that’s crucial to the rest of his life constitutes looking out for his best interests.

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