Overview of Our Sports & Athletics Law
There are many rules within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”), the National Junior College Athletic Association (“NJCAA”), and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (“NAIA”) to try and help athletes stay out of trouble and avoid losing scholarships or eligibility. There have been heart breaking stories of athletes violating rules which have led to penalties causing these athletes to lose their eligibility. Similarly, many administrators and coaches have lost their jobs due to rules violations.
Breaking a college rule is known as an infraction. There is an increased focus on NCAA infraction cases. In 2016, the NCAA Committee on Infractions issued a record number of decisions — 32 cases in total — for Division I. The previous record was 23 cases in 1986. The problems you face as a coach, administrator or student athlete is that there are many rules that if broken could result in an infraction, and those rules are frequently changing. Even if you make a slight mistake the NCAA, NCJAA, NAIA may see this as an infraction that you will have to contest and defend against. There are smaller (secondary infractions), such as excessive telephone calls by coaches to recruits or violations around allotted practice times, to major violations relating to recruiting or compensation of athletes by boosters. The NCAA defines “secondary violation” as “one that provides only a limited recruiting or competitive advantage and that is isolated or inadvertent in nature.” However, “multiple secondary violations by a member institution may collectively be considered as a major violation.” In 2016, the most common types of major violation cases were those involving extra and impermissible benefits. About 12 percent of cases were academic fraud cases.
A June 2016 independent study by the Sport Industry Research Center (SIRC) at Temple University found that nearly 85 percent of NCAA infraction cases involved coaches. Prior to 1984, 9 percent of violations were self-reported. Since then, 48 percent of violations have been self-reported, meaning that infractions by coaches and athletes are much more likely to be brought to the attention of the NCAA today by universities and colleges.
If you are a participant in collegiate sports, whether as an athlete, coach, or administrator, it is important to seek help when faced with an internal inquiry or other threat to your ability to participate in your chosen sport or profession. NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA member coaches, administrators and student athletes often need zealous legal representation when faced with allegations of infractions or misconduct. One of the most career threatening situations a coach or athlete can face is an investigation concerning an alleged violation of the Rules.
Under the current NCAA system, an NCAA member university or college must immediately notify the NCAA regarding a possible infraction or rules violation. The NCAA can then task the institution with conducting an inquiry and report back regarding the institution’s proposed findings. At that point, the NCAA can choose to accept the factual findings, or launch its own inquiry. Thus, by the time the institution has completed its inquiry, the die has been cast and the record on which a coach or athlete will have to defend against an allegation of misconduct may have been substantially determined by the institution and NCAA. Of course, the NCAA can decide to expand on the institution’s inquiry, which will only serve to heighten the stakes for a coach or athlete caught in the cross-hairs of the institution and NCAA’s Enforcement Staff.
If not already obvious, a coach or athlete caught up in an NCAA, NAIA, or NJCAA inquiry is well advised to engage personal legal counsel immediately to help them navigate the complicated process and to protect their interests. Our extensive litigation experience and expertise in conducting internal investigations and our significant compliance expertise allows us to guide you on issues that threaten your ability to compete and protect your livelihood.
Legal Services for Collegiate Sports Coaches, Administrators & Athletes
At Glade Voogt Lopez Smith, we provide legal representation to coaches, administrators, and student athletes on a wide range of sports related compliance issues, investigations, disputes, and negotiations. We have the knowledge and proven experience to represent coaches, administrators and professional and amateur athletes. Our services include preventive initiatives, education and training programs, and guidance and representation in the event of alleged violations. We are experienced in handling investigations before the NCAA, including proceedings before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, where we have successfully convinced the Committee to find “no violations” by our client.
Among other areas where we can assist, we can help you respond to allegations involving the following types of infractions:
- Academic Fraud
- Eligibility Requirements
- Impermissible Benefits (including from boosters)
- Recruiting (including unofficial campus visits)
Don’t sit on your rights and try to go it alone. The institution and NCAA (or the NAIA or NJCAA) will have their own zealous advocates. You have the same right to personal counsel and we can be your voice and strong advocate to protect your livelihood.
Our sports law attorneys, which include former student athletes, can assist clients in the following areas, among others:
- NCAA, NAIA, and NCJAA investigations and enforcement
- NCAA, NAIA, and NCJAA regulatory compliance
- NCAA, NAIA, and NCJAA Rules training for institutions, coaches, administrators, and student athletes
- Compliance with athlete-agent laws and regulations
- Contract and compensation issues
- Criminal matters (felonies and misdemeanors)
- Drafting student-athlete reinstatement waivers and appeals
- Drug testing policies and procedure
- Employment law issues, including, among other issues:
- Title III ADA Accessibility and Accommodation
- Title IX Compliance, Civil Rights and Diversity Issues
- Grievance Advice and Arbitration
- Licensing agreements
- Litigation (including class actions)
Our Sports & Athletics Law Attorneys
- Frank Lopez, Practice Leader
- Cynthia R. Smith