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Preparing for a post-O’Bannon world

Stewart Mandel has a piece out today on SI.com describing the range of urgency athletics administrators are feeling regarding the O’Bannon v. NCAA case currently making its way through the courts.  For those of you who haven’t kept up with the case, I wrote about it in more detail here.  Essentially, former UCLA men’s basketball star Ed O’Bannon and his co-plaintiffs are suing the NCAA, and other defendants, for not sharing the revenue generated in part by student-athletes both while they are in school (e.g. TV) and afterwards (e.g. video games, archive footage).  If the O’Bannon plaintiffs were to win, or even settle the case in their favor, the current structure of college athletics will be forever altered.

Mr. Mandel profiled University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden’s concern that the case is by no means a slam dunk for the NCAA, and how he and his colleagues should be preparing for the aftermath if it were to lose the case.  I appreciated Mr. Haden’s comments.  Up until now the little we’ve heard from administrators are the doomsday scenarios spouted off by the likes of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, who claimed his schools would rather de-emphasize sports and join Division III than go along with any type of pay for play scenario.

Mr. Haden is a lawyer.  He’s been reading the articles from legal analysts and scholars.  He knows the NCAA is vulnerable and the case is soft.  More importantly, he knows the stakes have never been higher.  It reminds me of this Family Guy/Star Wars clip, with Mr. Haden as Darth Vader and NCAA president Mark Emmert as the Empire’s henchman talking about the “invulnerable” Death Star (current NCAA structure).  Mr. Haden is right to be concerned.  He is right to be asking questions.  He is also right to be taking proactive steps to address the possible outcomes, or perhaps look at acceptable settlement options.

The contrast to Mr. Haden is University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds.  He was also quoted in Mr. Mandel’s piece, but with much less concern or urgency than Mr. Haden.  Mr. Dodds seemed to think he and other athletics administrators have “more immediate things to worry about,” and “have no control over (the case).”  In my view, nothing could be further from the truth.  The case exists only because of how the NCAA and its members (of which the University of Texas and Mr. Dodds is one) have constructed the current college athletics model.  If those in power change the model, the case goes away.  And while Mr. Dodds might simply be one person in a massive bureaucracy, he leads arguably the most powerful athletic department in the country, and SI.com recently named him the 8th most powerful person in college athletics (notice Ed O’Bannon ranks #4).  My guess is others will listen when he speaks.

Last week much of the country’s attention was fixed on the Supreme Court’s hearing of two significant same-sex marriage cases.  Reading through much of the post-argument commentary from both sides, it seemed apparent that at some point in the future, though perhaps not as a direct result of these two cases, same-sex marriage will be legal across the country.  I get that same feel about the O’Bannon case and paying student-athletes.  It may not be this case or right now, but at some point in the future college athletes will be paid.  The only question is when the new era is ushered in, and how.  Pat Haden recognizes this and wants to take action; good for him.

Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DanielHare.

Who’s Making Money in Big 12 Football?

After writing about the football finances of the SECBig Ten, ACC, and Pac-10, it’s the Big 12’s turn.  The numbers are drawn from schools’ reports to the U.S. Department of Education on the state of their athletic departments’ finances for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. See the note at the end for more details on the data.

Texas, of course, is in a league of its own when it comes to football revenue. In fact, they lead the nation. They’re a whopping $21 million ahead of the highest revenue-generating school we’ve covered thus far, Alabama:

  Football Revenue
University of Texas $93,942,815.00
University of Oklahoma $58,295,888.00
University of Nebraska $49,928,228.00
Texas A&M $41,915,428.00
Oklahoma State $32,787,498.00
University of Colorado $26,233,929.00
Texas Tech $26,201,009.00
University of Missouri $25,378,066.00
Iowa State $19,974,924.00
University of Kansas $17,885,176.00
Kansas State $17,570,624.00
Baylor University $14,355,322.00

For those keeping score between conferences, here’s where the Big 12 falls: Read the rest of this entry

Did Texas Tattle on Oregon for Suspicious Recruiting?

Thursday night, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported that University of Oregon expense records show money going to two men who are tied to “multiple recruits who signed letters of intent with the school.”

For those unfamiliar with how this aspect of recruiting works in college football, scouting services are run all over the country by people who are not affiliated directly with any one school, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.  They act as outside scouts for programs who can’t send their own recruiters to see the athlete in person. Often, they put together tapes and other information on recruits and provide it to colleges who might be interested in the player.

According to Oregon coach Chip Kelly, “Most programs purchase recruiting services.”  This in itself is not against NCAA regulations.

What is against NCAA regulations is paying someone to influence a player’s decision on where to play. These are the allegations now surrounding Oregon’s relationship with a man named Willie Lyles.

Oregon financial documents show a $25,000 payment to Lyles just days after highly-touted recruit Lache Seastrunk signed a letter of intent with the school. The payment was made for recruiting services, but far exceeds the $5,000 a handful of football coaches polled by ESPN yesterday say that recruiting services typically charge. In the previous two seasons, Oregon paid Lyles $16,500 or his recruiting services.

Perhaps most surprised by the news was Lache Seastrunk’s mother, Evelyn. She told ESPN, “Willie said he was a trainer. Now Oregon says he’s a scout? Is he on Oregon’s payroll? If Willie Lyles collected $25,000 off my son he needs to be held accountable. The NCAA must find out for me. I don’t know how to digest someone cashing in on my son.”

New information made available today on ChuckOliver.net from a source who used to be a business associate of Lyles suggests Lyles has a habit of preying on athletes with single  mothers, like Seastrunk.

Ingram Smith, author of the ChuckOliver.net story, makes an interesting point about the origin of the story. Last night the story broke on Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated, leaving Smith to wonder if the same source didn’t tip off all three media outlets.

Smith has sources who tell him that the University of Texas has been growing suspicious of Lyles for awhile. Says Smith, “Inside the Longhorn’s program there is tremendous suspicion regarding Lyles’ influence on some of the state’s top talent and how many of the state’s best players that were associated with Lyles, like Seastrunk, are leaving the state at an historically high rate and under fishy circumstances.”

There seems to be a growing number of instances where schools are rumored to be “tattling” on other schools. Remember that both Mississippi State and University of Florida were rumored to have pointed the finger at Cam Newton initially. Instead of being like a fraternity who protects its members at all costs, it appears college football is splintering as schools battle for top recruits and championships. Given the number of coaches and assistants who move around each and every year, taking with them inside knowledge of their former programs, look for this phenomenon to continue to grow.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients.  Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.