It appears that DePaul men’s basketball team will have a new arena to play in. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is set to announce a $300 million dollar arena at McCormick Place. The arena is expected to seat 10,000-12,000 and will part of an entertainment district supported by the mayor. DePaul turned down an offer to play rent free in the United Center for ten years.
The school’s contract with Allstate Arena is set to expire in 2015. Due to dwindling attendance, the university is committed to moving Blue Demon back into the city, even including it in its five-year plan. Allstate Arena, located in Rosemont, is around 16 miles from DePaul’s campus in Chicago. The team moved there from the on-campus Alumni Hall in 1980. In 2000, Alumni Hall was replaced by the Sullivan Athletic Center which includes the 3,000 seat McGrath-Phillips Arena, the current home to DePaul’s women’s basketball and volleyball teams.
With the official announcement still pending, details about the new arena vary by source. The local CBS station is reporting that the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Pier and Expansion Authority would put up $100 million dollars each while DePaul would contribute $75 million. Crain’s Chicago Business is reporting that its sources claim reports of the $100 million dollars contribution from the city as “inaccurate.”
There are numerous story lines with this story. First, there is DePaul’s desire to move the team back into the city, but also some reluctance to build an on-campus arena. The university has not made any indication, such as contacting a design firm or surveying sites, that it has considered building an arena suitable for men’s basketball. It is perfectly understandable that the university would consider other options instead of choosing to build a costly arena.
The controversial part of this announcement comes when the school’s rejection of the United Center’s offer is considered. As a private school, DePaul certainly has the right to say no the offer of free rent and instead opt to pay its $75 million share for the new arena. But judging from the comments on the previously linked articles, the taxpayers of Chicago will be opposed to this deal. Their objections are easily understood. If the city was attempting to lure the Blue Demons back into Chicago this may be a different situation. But the university already had an offer to play in an arena with NBA quality amenities located in the city. Chicago’s debt has been well documented, with the city’s bond rating being significantly downgraded earlier this year. City officials will have to explain to taxpayers why spending $100 million dollars of its money on a new arena.
If the details being reported about the deal are correct, DePaul is getting a dream deal. Any major university in the country would be willing to pay $75 million dollars for rent and the first right of scheduling in an arena worth nearly triple that sum in value. With the potential backlash from citizens, DePaul may never get that chance. Businessofcollegesports.com will keep you updated as this story progresses.
The Athletics Construction Roundup is a monthly series on construction of athletics facilities. Each month I’ll provide you with a list of athletic construction projects in progress (and recently completed) across the country, including details on budget and scope of the project.
University of Houston:
Work continues on Houston’s new stadium which will open in 2014. The official site of the project includes two live webcams of the construction.
Ground was broken late last month on new softball facilities, including offices and a hitting facility. It will be the first athletics project that is a part of the university’s $85 million ASPIRE campaign.
Oakland has announced a $65 million campus construction plan that includes $7.8 million for athletics projects. Plans include a tennis complex, a track and field complex, and recreational space.
University of Tampa:
Division II Tampa dedicated a lacrosse stadium with room for 2,000 spectators.
University of Texas-Arlington:
UTA has announced additional softball construction projects. In February the Mavs opened an indoor hitting facility.
University of Southern Mississippi:
Southern Miss is replacing the turf at its football stadium a year earlier than expected due to debris from a tornado earlier this year.
University of Maine:
$15 million renovations have begun on Maine’s Field House. Following a $2 million gift, the facility will be renamed The New Balance Field House.
University of Arkansas:
The Razorbacks’ 80,000 square foot football facility will be named for donor Fred W. Smith.
Purdue will construct a $13 million softball stadium, set to open in 2015. It is the final piece of the Mackey Complex master plan.
University of California:
Cal has announced a $15 million aquatic center. Unlike the current pool, the new facility will be exclusively for athletics.
Florida International University:
As mentioned in last month’s roundup, FIU has gone through with its unique basketball court design.
Eastern has unveiled its indoor golf facility. The space includes lockers and digital simulators.
University of Tennessee- Martin:
UT Martin has announced a football stadium plan that includes rebuilding the west grandstand. The changes, which must be approved by the Board of Trustees, should allow UTM to host football playoff games.
University of Richmond:
Work has started on the $17 million first phase of renovations for the Richards Center.
DIII Lawrence has announced a five million dollar renovation of the Banta Bowl, a multi-use outdoor facility.
University of Oklahoma:
OU has broken ground on a six and half million dollar training facility for rowing.
DIII Amherst will spend $12.5 million to renovate Pratt Field, considered the oldest college athletic field in the country.
University of Arizona:
Athletic Director Greg Byrne took media members of a tour of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. The soon to be completed facility and stadium expansion comes at a cost of $72 million.
University of Hawaii:
Athletic Director Ben Jay is taking facility repairs upon himself. He is tweeting out his actions in an attempt to catch the attention of university leadership.
After playing many games on the road and practicing at high schools, Samford has opened its new softball stadium.
Texas Christian University:
Following a $10 million donation, plans were approved for a $45 million renovation of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. The project will not begin until all funds are raised.
University of Kansas:
Ground has been broken on Rock Chalk Park. The multi-use sports park will include stadiums for track, softball, and soccer. The project comes with a $39 million price tag.
Louisiana State University:
LSU will name the field at Alex Box Stadium after former coach and athletic director Skip Bertman. Only the field will be renamed, the baseball facility’s name will remain Alex Box Stadium.
LSU is also completing its Sport Event Security Aware certification through the University of Southern Mississippi. It will be the 10th school and fourth in the SEC to do so.
Ball State University:
Ball State has unveiled a $20 million fundraising campaign which will result in numerous athletic construction projects. Over $12 million has been raised to date.
The historic oaks at Toomer’s Corner have been removed. The symbolic final roll after the spring game resulted in this incredible scene.
Troy has released artist renderings for a $25 million north end zone expansion of Veterans Memorial Stadium. The project will include several suites and team areas.
University of Iowa:
The Board of Regents has approved a nine million dollar plan that includes a new scoreboard and sound system at Kinnick Stadium.
In case you missed it- Construction projects previously mentioned on this site:
University of Connecticut:
UConn is adding 2,000 seats for its home football against Michigan.
University of Kentucky:
Kentucky has announced a renovation of Commonwealth Stadium. The $110 million project includes several suites.
University of California:
Cal hosted its first night baseball game.
University of Indiana:
Indiana unveiled its new baseball stadium which features a field without dirt.
Florida Atlantic University:
The naming right gift for FAU’s football stadium was withdrawn.
They did it again! The Southeastern Conference proved once more that they are the conference to beat with the announcement of the SEC Network. As many know the new network had been silently in the works for a while, and as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive put it today, “Goodbye Project X, and hello SEC Network.” Slive was joined by President of ESPN, John Skipper, to announce that come August 2014 the new network will make its grand debut.
SEC partnered with ESPN for a 20-year agreement extending through 2034, the longest agreement in sports. “The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” Slive said.
“We will increase the exposure for all 14 of our institutions, and we will showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league.”
The new multiplatform network will air SEC content 24 hours a day and seven days a week, including over 1,000 live events its first year, 450 televised and 550 shown digitally. It will also show 45 live SEC football games annually (including three per week) and more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games, 75 baseball games and other events from the league’s 21 sports. Not just that, but programming will also consist of studio shows, original content such as SEC Storied, spring football games, signing day and pro days coverage.
The SEC is following in the footsteps of other conferences with networks such as the Big 10 and Pac-12 but is doing it with a little more finesse. What makes this deal so unique from the others (besides ESPN’s name being attached) is that the league partnered with its primary rights holder, ultimately allowing more movement through the distributors. “This is not a regional network,” Skipper said. “This is a national network.”
“We’re confident this is a new and unique opportunity, nothing like this has been done before,” Skipper said. “[T]he level of distribution we’ll have at the beginning, the quality of the production, the amount of the games that we’ll have, the sort of integration with digital platforms, is taking this to a whole new level”
AT&T U-Verse, the fastest growing television provider in the U.S., has been secured as the networks first national distributor.
CBS will continue to have the first pick of SEC games each week, but will no longer have an exclusive window at 3:30 p.m. as it has in past years. After CBS chooses its game, the decision on what will air on SEC Network versus other ESPN platforms will be made by a “content board.”
Slive declined to answer any questions on the financial details when asked about specifics of ownership percentages but did say, “both ESPN and SEC are happy.”
ESPN affiliate sales and marketing will oversee the network’s day-to-day operations. The network will originate from ESPN’s Charlotte, N.C., offices with additional staff located at the company’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters. Staff announcements and additional details will be made in the coming months.
Follow Mackenzie on Twitter @KenzieThirkill
A story caught my eye last week about Kansas State University implementing a pilot program to sell beer to its fans during the six remaining home baseball games of the season. Several universities have experimented with the concept recently, and now there are approximately 21 Division 1 FBS schools selling beer at their home games. I thought it would be interesting to examine what we’ve learned thus far.
The University of Minnesota sold beer for the first time in its new football stadium last year, to mixed results. Sales totaled over $900,000, exceeding expectations and certainly demonstrating the demand is there. Astonishingly, however, UM claims to have LOST money on the program overall. The extra security personnel, tents and facilities, as well as equipment rental ate every bit of that $900k. UM officials admitted to perhaps being overly cautious, but still it is hard to imagine not making money on the sale of alcohol at a sporting event.
West Virginia University’s first year of selling beer at football games profited the athletic department between $500,000 and $700,000 depending on the source. WVU also said allowing sales in the stadium, along with prohibiting the ability to leave the stadium and return, cut down on alcohol related incidents commonly associated with binge drinking that goes on at pregame and halftime tailgate parties.
A quick glance at other schools showed Bowling Green State University profited between $20k-$25k in 2011, and Kent State University broke even. Syracuse University didn’t provide sales or profit numbers, but did say that beer sales make up 47% of total concession revenue.
It is difficult to find a consensus regarding the financial impact of selling beer to fans. Certainly some schools are making money while others are not. Two major factors appear to be playing into that: 1) pricing – the universities above range from $2/beer to over $7/beer; and 2) non-product expenses – Minnesota invested in large tents with generators, as well as extra security personnel, while other schools added minimal costs.
There does, however, appear to be a consensus that alcohol related issues did not increase as a result of the new policies. Further, several schools claimed they saw fewer incidents when selling beer in the stadium than they did before.
We’re still fairly early in this growing trend and more data needs to be collected and examined. But if there is a way to enhance the fan experience, increase revenue, and drive down alcohol related incidents by selling beer in the athletic venues, it won’t be long until a majority of schools will be on board.
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DanielHare
After making a public records request in December, the Oregonian and KATU.com received over 500 pages of documents related to alleged NCAA violations committed by Oregon’s football program between 2008 and 2011. The documents detail findings related largely to Oregon’s payment to a recruiting service company, whose talent scout, Will Lyles, allegedly had impermissible contact with prospective Oregon student-athletes. While reports have focused upon Oregon’s payment of $25,000 to Lyles’ recruiting service agency, it appears that the bulk of the NCAA’s concern does not lie with that payment, but rather, practices that Lyles allegedly engaged in.
One such practice is that Lyles allegedly did not provide written or video reports about recruits to Oregon. Under NCAA bylaw 13.14.3, recruiting services must provide subscribers with written or video reports quarterly. Up until 2011, Lyles allegedly provided neither, but instead, provided Oregon with oral reports about prospective student-athletes. On the face, this practice seems like a minor issue and another instance of the NCAA making a mountain out of a molehill. However, the NCAA requires recruiting and scouting service companies to provide written or video reports to prevent institutions from gaining unfair advantages when it comes to gleaning information about recruits. Requiring written or video reports ensures that each institution subscribing to the service receives the same information.
Given that Lyles allegedly was providing oral reports to Oregon, the notion is that Oregon was getting information about recruits that other institutions using Lyles’ services were not receiving. It is unknown whether this was the case, but a number of recruits with ties to Lyles eventually signed with Oregon. This, however, does not in and of itself depict any impropriety by Oregon or Lyles.
Perhaps the biggest issue Oregon faces, though, is explaining allegations that upon the NCAA’s discovery that Lyles wasn’t providing Oregon with written or video reports, that Lyles allegedly provided “outdated” reports to Oregon. From the outside, this allegation depicts a cover-up of sorts. If a cover-up was in fact orchestrated, it is for the NCAA to decide who ordered the cover-up. Did Lyles earnestly provide written reports to save face with the NCAA in an honest attempt to continue being an NCAA-sanctioned recruiting service? Or, did Oregon ask him to do so after the NCAA realized that Lyles hadn’t provided the report? In the coming months, Oregon should prepare to answer this question. Should the NCAA find that the cover-up was upon Oregon’s request, the program will likely suffer stiffer penalties from the NCAA.
For now, the biggest issue Oregon faces is whether the football program’s alleged receipt of Lyles’ oral reports on recruits was a major or secondary NCAA violation. Secondary infractions are those isolated or inadvertent instances that only provide minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantages. Major infractions provide major recruiting or competitive advantages. Over the coming months, the NCAA’s committee on infractions will issue a final report on its findings related to whether a major or secondary violation was committed. Thereafter, sometime within the year, Oregon will have a hearing before the committee on infractions.
The good news, perhaps, for Oregon is that reports indicate that the NCAA found neither a lack of institutional control nor unethical conduct present. These factors should help Oregon avoid some of the NCAA’s harsher penalties. However, one issue Oregon continues to face is that the NCAA may determine it is a repeat violator, as the alleged violations came within five years of Oregon’s 2004 violations. Should Oregon be deemed to be a repeat violator of the NCAA bylaws, harsher penalties could be imposed on that ground.
Overall, Oregon must prepare the case as to why this alleged violation did not amount to a major violation. To do this, it must show that it did not receive major recruiting or competitive advantages. This may be difficult, given the recruits Lyles was allegedly tied to who committed to Oregon. Reports indicate that Lyles served as a “mentor” to LaMichael James, Tra Carson, Dontae Williams and Marcus Davis, all of whom committed to Oregon. Thus, Oregon must work to demonstrate that it would have recruited those student-athletes even without the information Lyles provided them with orally. Given the talent level of these players, this arguably won’t be difficult to accomplish. Additionally, Oregon must demonstrate that those recruits’ decisions to commit to Oregon were unattached to any relationship they may have had with Lyles. This may prove to be the more difficult task for Oregon. However, given the program’s offerings and success over recent years, it likely will not be impossible. Nonetheless, spring is shaping up to be a busy time for Oregon’s athletics department.
Jurors in a small southern town in Colorado found that Riddell Helmets contributorily negligent in the head injuries a former Trinidad High School (CO) football sustained in 2008. As a result of its verdict, the jury awarded damages in the amount of $11.5 million, of which Riddell is responsible for paying $3.1 million.
The lawsuit arose after Rhett Ridolfi participated in a “Machine Gun Drill” during an early morning practice. During the course of the drill, Ridolfi allegedly made helmet-to-helmet contact with another teammate. This contact resulted in Ridolfi sustaining a serious head injury, which according to Ridolfi’s attorney, has left Ridolfi with impulse and behavioral problems and has left in a walking brace and with limited functions on his body’s left side.
Ridolfi’s mother filed the lawsuit on his behalf in March 2010. The lawsuit alleged negligence not only against Riddell, but also against six of Ridolfi’s football coaches. Three of the coaches were found by the jury to be negligent. However, reports indicate that damages were not ordered to be paid by them. Ridolfi’s attorney told the media that he will be filing a motion to have Riddell pay all of the $11.5 million in damages awarded by the jury. Riddell plans to appeal the verdict.
While the court transcript has not been reviewed, it appears that Ridolfi’s attorney argued that the defendants were liable for two types of products liability negligence: product defect and failure to warn.
With respect to the product defect claim, Ridolfi’s attorneys argued that the padding in the front of Ridolfi’s helmet which was manufactured by Riddell wasn’t safe enough. They also argued that another type of padding could have been used which would have protected Ridolfi. This argument was rejected by the jury.
However, the jury found that Riddell was negligent in the type of warning it provided on its helmet, which was worn by Ridolfi. Under tort law, a product may be defective as a result of the manufacturer’s failure to give adequate warnings as to the risks involved in using the product. For liability to attach, the danger must not be apparent to users.
Reports indicate that Riddell has included a warning label on its helmets since 2002. However, in this instance, it appears that the Colorado jury found that the warning label present on Ridolfi’s helmet in 2008 was inadequate. This was likely due to the fact that the warning label did not warn against the possibility that the helmet would not protect against concussions and serious bodily injury sustained from instances including helmet-to-helmet contact.
A statement released by Riddell indicated that it believed that if testimony from a “warnings” expert would have been admitted by the judge, that it would have been fully exonerated in this case. It is likely that Riddell’s appeal will argue that point, as well as the damages awarded and that its warning was sufficient.
This case, which arose out of a small town in Colorado, likely has larger implications than the damages which Riddell is facing paying. First, it demonstrates juries’ willingness to hold helmet manufacturers liable for failing to adequately warn of the injuries football players can sustain even while wearing a helmet. This factor is relevant as Riddell is currently facing at least two other cases on this issue, one of which is brought by 4,000 former NFL players. Whether juries in other jurisdictions–where the other cases against Riddell are located–will find similarly will only be determined by time. Furthermore, it is to be seen whether other courts allow Riddell’s “warnings” expert to take the stand and how that testimony may impact the outcome of the trial.
Riddell, however, can likely breathe a small sigh of relief that the Colorado jury did not find the design of its product to be defective. Thus, Riddell may feel fairly certain that the product design defense it has created may be successful in other jurisdictions and in front of other jurors.
Nonetheless, the road for Riddell is not clear. In coming months, it faces cases against plaintiffs who are more well-known (for example, the family of the late Junior Seau), have deeper pockets and greater media attention on their sides. It is to be seen whether given these factors, juries return similar verdicts to that reached by the Colorado jury.
Alicia Jessop is a Colorado-based attorney and the founder of the sports law website RulingSports.com. Nothing in this article is legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is intended to be created by this article. Follow Alicia @RulingSports and at AliciaJessop.com.
By: Hunter Mundy
The Connecticut Huskies will be hosting the Michigan Wolverines football team on September 21, 2013. For UConn, this may be the biggest home game ever scheduled. The game will take place at the Huskies’ Rentaschler Field, which has a normal capacity of 40,000 fans. This will be the second game in the contracted series between the two teams. The first game, a 2010 Wolverine victory of 30-10, was held before of a crowd of 113,090 at Michigan Stadium.
Connecticut normally allots 3,000 tickets to visiting opponents, but the contract with Michigan requires UConn to reserve 5,000 tickets for the Wolverines. In order to keep the same amount of season ticket opportunities, UCONN plans to add 2,000 temporary seats to the stadium’s capacity. While the Huskies have had numerous games in past years where crowds reached the 40,000 capacity, the additional seats, along with this game’s high demand for tickets, are sure to set a new record for football attendance.
In 2009, UConn’s average attendance was 38,229, and in 2012 the average number of spectators at Connecticut’s six home games was 34,672. Over four years, the ticket demand for Huskies football tickets has decreased by approximately 3 percent. Not taking into account required donations during the 2009-2011 cycle, tickets ranged from $150 for reserved seats to $210 for mezzanine chairs for a six-game home schedule. For 2013, which has a seven-game home schedule featuring the Wolverines, season ticket prices range from $175 for reserved seats to $280 for mezzanine chairs. UCONN/Michigan game attendees (outside of those purchased through the Wolverines allotment) will be required to purchase season tickets through the Huskies Athletic Ticket Office.
Some may ask why Michigan would not renegotiate or buy their way out of this contract in order to allow for an extra home game and the additional revenue that would generate. Dave Brandon, Michigan athletic director, stated to CBS Sports that even though he could have broken the deal, he opted not to because, “it would screw up [UConn’s] schedule” and force Michigan to “run around trying to find another game.” While cancelling this game would have led to scheduling difficulties for both groups, allowing this game to take place is truly a win-win for both institutions.
Michigan’s allotted 5,000 seats for this game does not nearly meet the expected ticket demand of Wolverine fans. With UConn located in one of the most populated areas of the United States, Michigan alumni are plentiful. For instance, the University of Michigan Alumni Club of New York, based in New York City, has over 13,000 members. Additionally, there are at least eight UM alumni clubs within a three-hour drive of UConn’s Rentaschler Field. UM Alumni Club members typically have the opportunity to purchase tickets for most home and away Michigan football games. However, it is the norm for these benefits to exclude rivalry games with Notre Dame and Ohio State as well as other games with traditional high-ticket demand.
As an example of the excitement and limited supply of tickets in the marketplace, the UConn game has also been added to the excluded list of games available directly to UM alumni club members. Look for UM fans throughout the region to either increase their UM athletic club donations and/or purchase UConn season football tickets in an effort to see their beloved Wolverines live and in person.
The 2013 season will be Connecticut’s first year in the newly named and configured American Athletic Conference. Having a home opponent on the schedule such as Michigan could not come at a better time. With losing former Big East rivals West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Huskies schedule, the Wolverines visit to Rentaschler Field will give the university and its football program a spark and a chance to shine on the national stage.
Many college programs choose to schedule traditional powers in order invigorate their home schedules and grow their program’s budgets. For instance, UConn’s rival Rutgers hosts the SEC’s Arkansas Razorbacks on the same day the Wolverines visit the Huskies.
In 2010, Duke University hosted the Alabama Crimson Tide, which set a modern day attendance record at the Blue Devils’ Wallace Wade Stadium (35,237). The #1 Crimson Tide routed Duke 62-13 in front of what ESPN dubbed “a crimson coated stadium named for a former Alabama coach.” Duke also used temporary stadium seating to accommodate the extra Alabama fans for this big contract game.
Additionally, Michigan State, along with Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan are a part of an agreement known as “Celebrate the State.” This contract contains 12 games from 2011 to 2020 with Michigan State facing each team four times during the period. One game of each these four game series will be played on the home field of Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. In 2012, Michigan State visited Central Michigan and won 41-7. This game set an attendance record for Kelly/Shorts Stadium of 35,127 spectators with plenty of green-clad Spartans fans in attendance. Johnny Adams, Michigan State’s cornerback, stated to ESPN, “It was a little different, a smaller environment; but at the end of the day it’s all football. It’s good for the fans and it’s good for Central to bring the fans out here and put on a great show.”
Here at BusinessofCollegeSports.com we keep enormous databases of information to assist in our reporting and analysis. We try to share as much with you as possible, but our web capabilities aren’t always what we wish they were. That being said, we recently came across a great WordPress plugin called TablePress that will allow us to post more of our databases. So, today we give you our 2010-2011 databases on football revenue and expenses (broken down by category) for public FBS schools subject to public disclosure laws.
You can find all of our databases under the Data tab above.
Imagine you have a son who plays basketball for a Division 1 school and they make it into the NCAA Tournament. You watched him pick up a basketball for the first time, you remember his first game, cheered him on in high school and now he is playing on national television in front of the entire country. Of course at this point you’re not going to stay home to watch his game from your couch. What if the cost of traveling from Washington DC to San Jose, California is too much for you? Maybe if your son plays for a school such as Ohio State University or Kentucky this wouldn’t be an issue.
Last year when Ohio State and Kentucky made it to the Final Four, both schools decided to show gratitude to the parents of the players by helping pay for their travel costs to New Orleans. Only costing a little more than $13,000 the schools purchased one additional hotel room for three nights for each player’s family. Both schools went to the head of their conferences (Big 10 and SEC) and asked for permission to use money from the Student Assistance Fund in order to afford all this to happen.
In my last post I mentioned the Student Assistance Fund when I broke down where all the NCAA tournament money goes. As I explained previously, the Student Assistance Fund is used to help student athletes who are either financially strained and can be used for a variety of things from buying clothes to paying for an application to graduate school.
The primary source of revenue for the Student Assistance Fund is generated from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With more than $66 million available, schools have plenty of opportunity to ask their respective conferences for money to do more deeds such as Ohio State and Kentucky.
Many would presume that student athletes would apply for the fund, with how many there are that complain they don’t receive enough and are hungry or don’t have clothes. However, several schools have told BusinessofCollegeSports.com that their students under utilize this fund despite knowing about its existence.
That being said, the money is still being used for its intended purpose. The fund paid out more than $53 million to 81,00o student-athletes during the 2010-11 academic year according to the NCAA.
When student-athletes aren’t applying individually to use the funds, however, schools like University of Maryland utilize the money to enhance the academic experience with iPads for all its student-athletes. The university spent $281,000 to help students in the classroom as well as stay in better contact with the Athletic department and their coaches.
Whether or not someone believes that this money is not being used for its intended purpose, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn told the IndyStar, “The conferences are responsible for administering the fund within the parameters,” when asked “is that a proper use of the fund, or an NCAA-permitted use of the fund?”
One of the biggest fears for any parent would be for something to happen to your child. When you’re watching your child from your couch in Atlanta, just like University of Louisville’s Kevin Ware’s parents did, watching your son break his leg cannot be easy. (It was hard for me to watch it, and I don’t even know the guy!) In cases such as these, when your son’s team makes it as far as the regional final and parents can’t make it to Indianapolis, it would be nice to see the schools show a little thanks to the parents. After all they wouldn’t have an athlete if it hadn’t been for mom and dad.
More schools such as University of Louisville are beginning to look more into fund uses. Many were unaware that they were even allowed to even do this. John Cams, Louisville’s senior associate athletic director for compliance told the IndyStar, “We’ve never been asked by our sports teams about doing so and we’ve never contemplated it because our conference isn’t throwing it out there”
Ohio State was the first school to start the trend, and even made a public announcement saying, “We are grateful for their [parents] support and dedication… We wish we could have done more.”
Surprising enough that it hasn’t been thought of until now, even Chad Hawley the Associate Commissioner of Compliance for the Big Ten, is taken back by how little the fund is accessed. Especially when the Big Ten received another $2 million after the 2011-12 academic year, bring the total to $7.6 million.
‘This is something that can have a direct impact on students, or maybe a direct impact on their families…” says Hawley. As any athlete knows, no one will support you as much as your family will. Who knows, maybe that was the key to Kentucky’s win last year.
Selena Roberts’ serious allegations against the Auburn athletics department earlier this week caused an uproar among members of the media and college football fans. If true, the story’s accusations of rampant drug use by football players, coaches handing players money under the table and academic officials changing football players’ grades to ensure their eligibility, are enough to turn Auburn athletics on its head. Tucked away in the story, though, is an issue more pressing and with greater possible harm than any NCAA sanction can impose. It is one that may cost former Auburn football player, Mike McNeil, his freedom.
McNeil is currently facing trial on two felony counts of first-degree robbery. The charges stem from allegations that four former Auburn football players robbed a home while armed. While building allegations of Auburn’s alleged athletic improprieties to a crescendo, Roberts quickly slipped a fact into her story that a trained legal eye would not let go unnoticed. Eight paragraphs into Roberts’ Auburn expose, was the following quote,
“To show you how innocent he is, Mike is willing to go to trial because he says he didn’t do it,” says Ben Hand, who recently was dismissed as McNeil’s attorney after the family formally complained that he had a conflict of interest. “Mike McNeil didn’t rob anyone.”
As it turns out, McNeil’s attorney previously represented a man who lived in the house that McNeil allegedly robbed. In the legal world, this is called a “conflict of interest.” And in the legal world, a conflict of interest is a reason for which a criminal defendant can appeal the outcome of his case, should he be convicted.
Roberts’ assertion in her article that Hand was dismissed as McNeil’s attorney is incorrect. That is because today, the Auburn educated judge hearing McNeil’s case ruled that Hand could not withdraw as counsel for McNeil’s case. Rather, McNeil’s case will proceed to trial next Monday.
At that trial, McNeil faces three options when it comes to legal representation. The first, is to be represented by a lawyer who once represented someone whose home McNeil allegedly robbed. The second is for McNeil, without a college degree, to represent himself in a felony case in which he faces 21 years to life in prison. The third option, is for McNeil to hire a new attorney who will assist his conflicted attorney. That attorney will have 72 hours to prepare for a trial that took the prosecution nearly two years to bring to fruition.
Arguably, there is not an attractive choice present in this bunch. As depicted above, Hand has maintained McNeil’s innocence to the media and will likely advocate zealously for him. Additionally, the presiding judge in McNeil’s case, in ruling that Hand cannot withdraw from the case, determined that the prosecution will only proceed to trial against McNeil on two charges, as opposed to the seven charges he was originally facing. This was based upon the judge’s finding that conflicts existed between Hand and those charges, but were not present in the two charges McNeil continues to face. Regardless of these facts, questions likely persist in McNeil’s mind as to whether his attorney bears any biases towards him and if he will receive a fair shot at justice.
As the time on the clock dwindles down to McNeil’s trial date, a review of 11th Circuit (the circuit in which Alabama is located) and Supreme Court case law is necessary. One basis upon which a defendant can appeal his conviction is for ineffective assistance of counsel. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a criminal defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel is violated where a defendant’s attorney has an actual conflict of interest that affects the defendant adversely. Something is an actual conflict of interest when a lawyer has inconsistent interests. 11th circuit case law says that a conflict of interest exists when a defendant can point to specific instances in the record to suggest an actual conflict or impairment of interest. Specific instances could include an attorney choosing to elicit or failing to elicit evidence helpful to one client but harmful to another.
The question here, then, is does Hand have inconsistent interests when it comes to representing McNeil? While Hand represented a resident of the home McNeil allegedly robbed, that representation came on an unrelated matter that occurred prior to the alleged robbery. Given the differential between the matters and the time that has passed sense, does an actual conflict exist?
If an actual conflict of interest existed, case law also requires that the conflict adversely affected the counsel’s performance in order to successfully appeal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. A defendant must show three things to prove an adverse effect: 1. That the defense attorney could have pursued a plausible alternative strategy, 2. that the alternative strategy was reasonable and 3. that the alternative strategy was not followed because it conflicted with the attorney’s external loyalties.
At this stage, only McNeil and Hand know what alternative strategies exist, if any. And at this stage, it is likely that they are the only two people who know why one defense strategy was chosen over another.
Should McNeil be convicted and wish to appeal his case, the real question that may persist is whether he waived his right to conflict-free counsel. A defendant waives his right to conflict-free counsel when he chooses to proceed to trial with an attorney who has an adverse conflict of interest. Arguably, this decision could bar an appeal on this issue, as the Supreme Court case of Johnson v. Zerbst found that a “waiver of the right to conflict-free counsel ‘disposes of the need to evaluate the actual or potential ineffectiveness of counsel caused by the alleged conflicts of interests.’” To demonstrate a waiver, it must be shown that the defendant was aware of the conflict, recognized it could impact his defense and knew of his right to obtain other counsel. Notably, today, the presiding judge in McNeil’s case advised him of his right to proceed to trial without an attorney or with a new attorney to assist Hand. It is to be seen what decision McNeil makes.
Many unknowns face Mike McNeil at this moment. The decisions facing McNeil as his trial approaches are lofty. Truth be told, they are likely as big as the choice he made to commit to playing football at Auburn University.
Follow Alicia Jessop on Twitter @RulingSports.