NCAA Student-Athletes—Pay for Play?

As football season is getting into full swing, I thought it would be appropriate to write a piece about one of the most hot-button issues in sports—whether or not NCAA athletes should be compensated for their participation in sports.

I am writing not to share my opinion on the matter, but rather to promote a discussion so that others can share their opinions on the matter—so please feel free to leave comments or post your response on social media.

Both sides of the argument bring up great points. On one side, there are supporters of what seems to be the NCAA’s stance on the matter, which is that athletes should not be compensated for their play and that because this group is labeled “student-athletes” and to preserve the sanctity of amateurism, a scholarship to go to the respective school should be adequate “compensation”. On the other side of the spectrum are those that believe student-athletes are being exploited to generate revenue for their schools/NCAA without being adequately compensated for all the money that is brought to the institution due to their play.

It seems—from the former’s perspective—that student-athletes are “pampered royalty” and that there is no need to compensate such a privileged group that already seemingly have so many advantages. It is definitely true that student-athletes on most major Division I campuses enjoy the best facilities, free academic tutoring (debatable if this is really utilized in some cases), and, on occasion, extra benefits from university athletic donors (which is obviously an NCAA violation). It is evidenced in a few Public Infractions Appeals Committee Reports that student-athletes receive benefits like money, automobiles, free housing, and air travel.

On top of that, student-athletes have the opportunity to play in front of thousands of fans in stadiums each week—depending on the sport—and are glorified in a way that makes them seem like royalty. The athletes are also on television sets across the country in front of millions, which brings more fame. In some other cases, it is clear that student-athletes have the option of not doing their academic work, but rather, have tutors that do the student-athletes’ work for them. These are the arguments for why they are considered “pampered royalty” and why student-athletes should not receive compensation for playing their sport; however, the issue with this view is that many do not truly see the reality of the situation of most student-athletes and their academic and scheduling conflicts and the exploitation that goes on behind the scenes.

As to the argument for the side that believes student-athletes should be compensated, it seems that these student-athletes are “exploited victims” and “indentured servants” for their universities. According to 2013-14 data gathered by Daniel Rascher (a sports economists/expert witness who I will interview later so that his perspective and advice on sports law is available to the readers), Division I sports generate over eleven billion dollars in revenue per year—and that number is growing each year. It has been a continuous issue with student-athletes being seen as pampered royalty because of their facilities, the fame that comes along with playing sports, and the other benefits received by student-athletes that are not received by the “regular” student body. However, given the amount of money that these student-athletes generate for their universities, these “extra benefits” do not really amount to much—especially considering they are not allowed to receive anything more than a scholarship for school (which the “school” part is arguably not present in several cases due to the high demand and rigor of a Division I athlete’s schedule) and they are bringing in millions of dollars for their school each year.

In a recent case, O’Bannon v. NCAA, there is the issue of student-athletes having their name, image, and likeness being used in a major video game without the student-athlete signing off on this use or the student-athlete receiving any compensation. This, of course, is a major argument for the side that favors players being compensated. While the NCAA and video game company make millions, the athletes in the video game were being profited on without their permission (sorry to the NCAA gamers on Xbox and PS4—this is why there isn’t a video game out right now). Some argue that these athletes should be “happy” just having the privilege of being on a major video game while the other side argues that this is yet another form of exploiting these student-athletes without allowing them to receive any compensation or protection.

Whatever the case, I am not sure whether this debate will be settled any time soon. As I said before, there are credible arguments for both sides and there are definitely arguments for either side that I did not mention in the article—but hey, that’s why I want you all to share your opinion on the matter and bring new perspectives to the forefront.

I hope this article promotes some type of debate and sharing of ideas & information and I look forward to reading the responses. Be on the lookout for more articles, advice, and interviews that deal with sports and sports law topics very soon.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

“You go to Chapel Hill and try to go to a Carolina-Duke game, good luck trying to find a ticket. It’s nationally televised. There’s so much money that goes behind just one basketball game. I do think the players from both sides should definitely see some type of benefit.”

Marvin Williams, former UNC-Chapel Hill basketball player

“I don’t think athletes are being exploited. I think there’s a symbiotic relationship there. Without the university platform for them to compete, there is no exposure for them. None. So that experience alone and that opportunity creates the platform for them, for visibility. I just think the money issue has clouded what the real purpose is, regardless of where the money is coming from and how much is coming in. I want the whole story to be told about the value of an education and put dollars to that.”

Judy Rose, athletics director, Charlotte 49ers

 
Read more quotes here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/college/mens-basketball/article9201149.html#storylink=cpy

– Dale Hutcherson

Interview with ESPN Legal Analyst/Law Professor/Sports Attorney Andrew Brandt

During my time in Oregon at the Law School Summer Sports Institute, I had the opportunity to listen to a panel which included ESPN Business and Legal Analyst, Andrew Brandt. He told a little bit about his background and journey in sports law and provided commentary on sports law topics including gaming in sports (i.e. fantasy sports) and the relationship between teams and agents in the NFL.

Andrew Brandt is the legal and business analyst for ESPN and is a law professor at Villanova Law School where he is the director of the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law. With ESPN Brandt analyzes business, legal, and policy sports issues on popular shows such as “Sportscenter”, “NFL Live”, and “Outside the Lines”. He is also a featured columnist for The MMQB (Sports Illustrated), ESPN.com, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more.

Before becoming a legal analyst for ESPN, Brandt spent nine years with the Green Bay Packers as their Vice President where he negotiated player contracts and managed the team’s salary cap. Early on, Brandt worked for ProServ, Inc. and Woolf Associates representing athletes such as Michael Jordan, Matt Hasselbeck, Adam Vinatieri, and Ricky Williams to name a few. He also served as the youngest general manager in sports at the time (1991) for the NFL World League’s Barcelona Dragons.

After hearing him speak on the panel, I knew I had to secure an interview with him for The Aspiring Sports Lawyer (“TASL”) blog and he graciously agreed. Below is the interview:

TASL: Will you give a little background as to your path and the way in which you found a career in sports as an attorney and how you ended up becoming a legal/business analyst for ESPN?

Brandt: I went to Stanford and then back to Washington DC where I am from and Georgetown Law School.  While in law school I was able to intern for ProServ, a sports management firm.  I started there in tennis but soon moved to Team Sports representation, working with NBA superagent David Falk.  There I was able to develop a football practice, which led to me switching from the labor (players) side to the management (teams, owners) side twice: first to become the general manager of the Barcelona Dragons of the NFL’s World League, and later, after another time as an agent, to the GB Packers as vice president and general counsel.  Since leaving the Packers, I wanted to do something different with my career and have tried to fill a void as an experienced and informed media analyst on legal and business issues in sports, as well as bringing a practical model on sports study to academia.

TASL: What advice would you give aspiring sports lawyers that are in law school now and looking to find a job in the sports law world? What should they be doing now and what steps would you recommend they take both immediately and in the future?

Brandt: Find a passion in the sports industry, something you would do with no regard for salary or time commitment.  Be able to communicate well and write something every day.  When talking to a future employer, make sure the passion comes out and always provide a writing sample of something you are proud of.

TASL: You have worked in the NFL on both sides of contract negotiations and bring a unique perspective to those that are wanting to get into sports law either on the agent side or the side of the team. What is the most significant difference between the two jobs? Also, how did you manage to balance the interests of the team and the player and come to an agreement that pleased both sides?

Brandt: An agent is like a fantasy football owner: rooting for certain players to do well, regardless of team affiliation.  A team executive has to worry about precedent with every deal, knowing all players (and agents) are watching.  Being a former agent was invaluable experience to working for a team, as I knew how the other side thought.  The key to negotiations is to put yourself in the other side’s shoes.

TASL: Now for some sports law questions—Could you comment on the relationship between players and the teams they play for and also the relationship between the NFLPA and the league office/commissioner?

Brandt: Obviously this relationship has been marked by a lack of trust, since the time even before the 2011 CBA.  Leadership does not appear to trust or even like each other, and NFLPA leadership was and is intent on not being “chummy” as was the previous leader with NFL Commissioner Tagliabue.  This instills some lack of trust between players and teams, although that is more of an individual thing, often influenced by that player’s contract negotiation and business dealings with the team.

TASL: Do you see the NFL moving away from or reforming their Collective Bargaining Agreement where the commissioner is the “judge, jury, and executioner” of all disciplinary functions?

Brandt: The NFL just won two Circuit Court decisions affirming that power (Brady, Peterson) so has the leverage in this area.  If the NFLPA chooses to make it an issue in the next round of bargaining, they will obviously have to give up something, and I am not sure what there is to give.  This area gets a lot of attention and a lot of legal resources but not really a high priority for either side.

TASL: Last question, if you could give one piece of advice to those of us that aspire to find a career in sports law and have an impact in sports law like you have had, what would it be?

Brandt: Find a way to separate yourself from the pack, whether through developing a special skill, coming up with a new way of looking at things, being able to communicate or write better than others, or something else.  Realizing so many people want to get into sports, see if there is a path for you that is not the one everyone else is looking at.  Keep trying to meet people with invading their time.  And, of course, be yourself and let your light shine.

To read more about Andrew Brandt and his take on issues in the sports world and his legal analysis, follow him on twitter @AndrewBrandt.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

“Realizing so many people want to get into sports, see if there is a path for you that is not the one everyone else is looking at.” – Andrew Brandt

– Interview and Information compiled by Dale Hutcherson; questions answered by Andrew Brandt.

Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute

In order to make dreams happen and come to fruition, steps have to be taken to gain knowledge, insight, and experience in the career or education field that is so desired. For me and my interest in sports law, one of the first major steps I have taken is attending the University of Oregon School of Law’s Sports Institute. It is a great program designed to teach many different aspects of the wide world of sports law including issues in scholastic, intercollegiate, and professional sports.

Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute

“The Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute’s comprehensive curriculum introduces aspiring sports lawyers to a broad range of legal topics relevant to the practice of sports law. The Institute features a unique mix of classes, lectures and career panels, each led by experts in their respective fields. During the rigorous five-week program, students immerse themselves in the wide world of sports law.” – Oregon Law Summer Sports Institute website (https://law.uoregon.edu/explore/OLSSI).

The Sports Institute is a strenuous five-week program that covers areas of law within sports including: interscholastic sports law, economics of sports, NCAA regulation, discrimination in sports (race issues, Title IX, etc.), NCAA realignment & reform, sports scandals, sports & labor law, sports & torts, sports & intellectual property, international sports law, sports & negotiation, gambling in sports, sports & antitrust law, and legal issues facing sports agents.

The program also brings in experts in each area of sports law covered to teach the classes. Professors include general counsel for teams, individual attorneys that have worked on landmark cases, sports economists that have served as expert witnesses during major trials, expert professors of sports law from across the country, attorneys/counsel for the NCAA and other governing bodies in sports, and attorneys from agencies in sports such as the Anti-Doping Agency.

The curriculum consists of reading case law and academic articles from each area of sports law covered, attending classes six days a week, attending discussions with panels of experts on each subject area, Title IX and NCAA realignment simulations & role playing situations, and mock contract negotiations. It is intense, but interesting and it greatly increases knowledge on critical issues facing sports and all the actors in sports today. To top it off, there is a cumulative exam at the end of the program and it provides 6 ABA approved credits that go towards your Juris Doctorate Degree.

In the midst of all the work, there is also time for fun. Eugene, Oregon is a unique place with many activities available to all who are there. The Sports Law program allows for its students to integrate with the Eugene community by providing opportunities to go to events such as the Olympic Trials for track & field, rafting on the McKenzie River, and friendly competitive sports between the students of the program. Eugene also has many hiking trails, great restaurants, and wine vineyards. On top of that, as part of the experience, all of the students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to go to the NIKE and Adidas headquarters in Portland.

Throughout the program, the most valuable aspect truly lies in its networking opportunities. There are opportunities to meet with those that have already made sports law their profession and they give great advice on career and legal topics. They also instill in the students the knowledge needed to gain an edge in pursuing a career in sports law. With that said, the other great networking opportunity lies in socializing and spending time with the other students in the program. All of the students are like-minded individuals that have many of the same goals, and through meeting them there are great discussions about relevant topics and friendships that are made. In making these friendships with my classmates, I know I will have great connections through them as we all advance in our careers.

All that said, the University of Oregon School of Law Sports Institute is a great experience for those interested in a career in sports law. It provides a great educational opportunity, beneficial discussions about important topics, networking opportunities, and fun. I would highly recommend a program like this to any aspiring sports attorneys.

My next articles will be about relevant topics in the sports world that many people have strong feelings about. I hope they will promote discussion and I look forward to seeing your thoughts.

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

“You take on the responsibility for making your dream a reality.” – Les Brown

– Dale Hutcherson