NCAA Compliance and the Role of Attorneys

huskyIn the wake of reports that UConn has paid nearly $80,000 in legal fees to outside counsel in connection with NCAA compliance this year, I have received a number of questions concerning the role of an attorney with respect to such matters.  The following are two of the most commonly asked questions:

1.  What types of NCAA compliance services does an attorney provide?

Essentially, an attorney’s role with respect to NCAA compliance involves two distinct types of services.  The first type is intended to prevent NCAA violations and include tasks such as educating players, coaches and athletic department officials on NCAA rules and regulations.  In addition, an attorney would conduct regular audits and investigations of the athletic program to ensure compliance. 

The second area would include dealing with, and responding to allegations of NCAA violations.  An attorney would work with athletic department officials to investigate the allegations, formulate a defense, assist in the preparation of written responses and the appearance of the university before the Committee on Infractions.  An attorney may also work with the university and NCAA to negotiate the terms of a penalty.

2.  Do all colleges and universities use outside counsel for compliance issues?  Why or why not?

Arguably any school, even in Division II or III, should use outside counsel for NCAA compliance issues.  The NCAA rules and procedures are complex and cumbersome irrespective of the size of the school.  Allegations of NCAA violations bring negative press, negatively impact recruiting and can even affect the academic reputation of a school.  Conversely, a successful academic program can have a transformative effect – sometimes referred to as the “Flutie Effect” – on applications and enrollment. 

Often times, however, smaller schools do not use outside counsel. The  financial stakes are very different between large, Division I school and  a  smaller schools.  At UConn for example, the basketball team generates millions of dollars each year.  If the NCAA were to penalize UConn, and take away scholarships or tournament eligibility, the university would lose significant revenue,  For a smaller school, revenue may not be part of the equation.


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  1. […] NCAA Compliance and the Role of Attorneys […]

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