In August 2010, I published an article in Sports Litigation Alert concerning a potentially precedent-setting case in the business of collegiate athletics. The article, entitled A Beacon in Poughkeepsie: Marist Claims Victory Over James Madison in Coaching Contract Suit, discussed the judgment of default that entered against James Madison University (JMU). The article also spoke to precedential value of the case, quoting Marist’s attorney, Paul O’Sullivan:
“This case could well set a precedent for college and university athletics nationwide…Coaches have to abide by contracts, and other institutions have to respect those agreements. If that contract is breached, damages will be assessed. It’s a simple lesson in fiduciary responsibility and contractual obligation.”
Now for an update – subsequent to the publication of the article, JMU was able to set aside the judgment of default and the case quietly proceeded to trial. Shortly before trial, Marist and JMU reached a settlement for the reported sum of $100,000, according to Chris Valdez of the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Marist’s breach of contract claims against Brady continued to trial, which is ongoing. As I wrote in 2010, perhaps the most interesting sports law question involves Brady’s contract with Marist and specifically the “no-recruit” clause, requiring him to refrain from recruiting those players that he recruited to attend Marist.
Michael McCann, a professor at Vermont School of Law and a sports law expert, raised two issues with the no-recruit clause in an August 2009 interview with Siena Saints Blog (SienaSaintsBlog.com). First, Marist cannot legally prevent the movement of student-athletes to another college or university, nor can Marist require that student-athletes remain at Marist. Second, the no-recruit clause may be void on public policy grounds, as it interferes with educational opportunities for student-athletes. It remains to be seen whether a New York court would enforce this clause, which necessarily affects student-athletes who are not parties to the agreement between Marist and Brady. Of course, even if that part of the contract is disregarded, Marist may prove that Brady breached other provisions of his contract.
Chris Veldez reported on this topic in his most recent story on the case. Valdez reports that JMU officials testified that they had no knowledge when they hired coach Matt Brady of a contract between him and Marist concerning Marist recruits.
Stay tuned for more on Marist v. Brady as information becomes available.