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A fundamental precept of college athletics is amateurism. That is part of the charm of college sports, and the NCAA is committed to keeping it that way. However, in February, an Ohio court ruling declared that one rule aiming to preserve this quality goes too far.
The rule, NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199, prohibits players from having advisors (lawyers or agents) present in negotiations or having advisors directly contact professional teams. Erie County Judge Tygh M. Tone’s decision resulted from pitcher Andrew Oliver’s suit against the NCAA. Oliver became ineligible under the rule because, before deciding to play at Oklahoma State, Oliver admittedly had his lawyer present in negotiations with the Minnesota Twins. (Professional baseball teams can draft players straight out of high school.) Judge Tone characterized the rule as illegal because it interferes with a student-athlete’s right to legal representation.
Now, shortly before a jury trial to determine Oliver’s damages, he and the NCAA have reached a settlement that seems to give both sides a little bit of what they wanted. Oliver, drafted by the Detroit Tigers, walks away with $750,000, and the NCAA gets the suit dismissed and the trial judge’s order vacated. In short, it gets to keep its rule–at least for now. What other courts will have to say if such a situation arises again is still to be seen. The NCAA is dedicated to upholding the integrity of amateurism standards and vigorously defends the rule, but Judge Tone’s decision has at least raised questions about how courts may view the guideline.
– Hannah Smith
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