State of sports law

Panelists discuss collegiate athletic issues at South Texas College of Law

Last Thursday, June 20 the South Texas College of Law hosted a panel conducted by the Jackson Lewis Law Firm discussing some of the recent issues facing collegiate athletics today. John Long is of counsel in Houston at the law firm and conducted the panel which consisted of five members: Gregg Clifton, the Co- Chair of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Industry Practice Group, Taurian Houston, the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance at Rice University, Dr.Trayvean Scott, the Deputy Athletic Director at Southern University, Jake Wonders, the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance and Academics at Houston Baptist, and Jeff Palmer, the Associate General Council at the University of Houston. All five participants provided unique perspectives on important issues surrounding collegiate athletics currently.

The first issue discussed was the transfer portal now available to student athletes. The portal, which was initiated in the last nine months, is a database for every student athlete who is interested in transferring from his or her current school. It includes every sport, and has been widely used effectively as a "free agency" tracking database that every athletic department, coach and athlete has access to. It is used simply by an athlete going to the school's compliance department and informing them that they would like to be entered in the transfer portal. The athlete then has 48 hours to be entered into the portal, and while the coaching staff and compliance department cannot say no to the athlete, they can delay the request. Panel member Taurian Houston outlined that the portal provides both positive and negative effects for the student athlete if he or she chooses to submit their name. "It now allows freedom for the student athlete to communicate with other institutions without a blockade from a coach saying you cannot talk to other institutions." However he did mention that although this freedom is now available, student athletes must be aware of the ramifications which come from entering your name in the portal. According to Houston, "By entering your name in the portal, the school has the ability to remove you from athletic aid. If you were to submit your name for the fall semester, your current school could remove you from athletic aid for the fall semester." Essentially a student athlete entering his name into the portal is in fact taking a risk. If he or she does not like their current situation, they now have the freedom to try and and be picked up by another institution, however the risk is they may not have a scholarship from their current school if in fact they do not find a fit from the transfer portal. As of right now, the portal is being used heavily. There are over 10,000 student athletes across the board who have used the portal with 1,300 of them being mens college basketball players.

The panel went on to discuss the biggest scandal the NCAA has had to deal with recently. An FBI investigation resulted in an ex - Adidas executive, James Gatto, being sentenced for nine months in prison for bribing the father of a college basketball prospect who attended the University of Louisville. Two other basketball insiders, Meri Code and Christian Dawkins, were sentenced to six months for their role in the scheme. John Long, the panel's conductor, theorized that "Adidas is in effect acting as a booster, a representative of athletics interest, for the institutions for which those companies are attempting to funnel kids." There is a bylaw in the NCAA handbook that does state if corporations or apparel corporations commit a violation regarding interactions with potential student athletes, than the University is in fact on the hook for a violation should that student athlete attend that University. The question for the panel became how to police and enforce these third parties from committing violations for which the University would then become accountable for. Rice University, where Taurian Houston is the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, is an Adidas school. He said "When I think about a lack of institutional control, we get to the aspect of who's a booster and who's an independent actor? Are they looking at their own independent interests, or in the interests of the corporation." This sometimes can be very hard to decipher for a University, therefore making it more common for violations to occur.

Compliance laws were also discussed by the panel. 30 violations were committed last year in college basketball, 24 of them were done by coaches or assistant coaches. Jeff Palmer, Associate General Council at the University of Houston, talked about how to protect the school from these violations saying "a comprehensive compliance training program is the key." An example was given about a division one swimming coach who simply did not understand compliance protocols and unintentionally committed a violation. Gregg Clifton of Jackson Lewis said two things must be done to prevent coaches from getting a violation. First, when a new coach comes in, they sometimes are not familiar with the law. Each university has to educate their coaches on the laws. Second, universities should be assisting coaches in helping them understand the laws. Violations of all kinds can be avoided with the proper education given by Universities to the coaches.

The final piece of discussion for the panel was pay for play, which is probably the most polarizing issue facing collegiate athletics right now. California has introduced a "Fair Pay for Play Act" which would allow the state's college athletes to be paid for the use of their image, name and likeness. California Senator state senator Nancy Skinner has said "College athletes have been exploited by a deeply unfair system. The NCAA, the universities, the media, they've made billions of dollars on the talent of athletes, while the athletes have not received anything." This has been an ongoing issue, and there could be change coming soon. Taurian Houston said "We have to start having the conversation. I'm not a straight up proponent of paying student athletes because this creates more issues. You deal with title nine, are you going to start taxing scholarships, athletic aid... A lot of student athletes haven't thought of these things. I do think things do need to change though." After the panel concluded I proposed to Taurian that a lack of a unified goal from the "pay for play" crowd may have contributed to a lack of movement on this issue. He agreed and said this will be a step by step process that will probably be an ongoing issue for some time.


The final dress rehearsal before conference play begins for all college basketball teams.

College basketball report Week 8: Conference play looms

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TEXAS LONGHORNS (10-2)

Last week (1-0): W-HPU 89-58

This week: Saturday vs. Baylor

The Texas Longhorns came away victorious in an 89-58 win over the High Point Panthers, Monday night, inside the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center in Austin. Junior guard Jase Febres scored a game-high 16 points, as sophomore guard Andrew Jones added in 13 points and four assists in his first start following a battle with leukemia.

Winners of six of their last seven, the Longhorns will open their Big-12 schedule with a Texas Showdown against the Baylor Bears.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (6-5)

Last week (1-0): W - Texas Southern 58-55

This week: Saturday vs. Arkansas

In a surprisingly competitive contest, the Texas A&M Aggies outlasted the Texas Southern Tigers in a three-point victory, Monday night, inside the Reed Arena in College Station. While recording 10 points, senior forward Josh Nebo was a dominant force in the middle for A&M as he tallied 15 rebounds and four blocks in the win.

After losing four straight, the Texas A&M Aggies will enter the SEC conference play riding a three-game winning streak ahead of their match against Arkansas on Saturday.

Houston Cougars (10-3)

Last week (1-0): W - Washington 75-71

This week: Friday vs. UCF

The Houston Cougars closed out the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with a Christmas Day victory over No. 21 Washington Huskies Wednesday night. It was a come from behind win for the Cougars, as Houston trailed by 14 points early in the 1st half.

Behind a 19-point performance from both Caleb Mills and Fabian White Jr., UH went on to outscore the Huskies 44-35 in the second half to complete the comeback win.

With the upset over Washington, the Cougars won the mid-season Hawaiian tournament with White taking home Most Outstanding Player honors after averaging 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds during the three-game tournament.

As they head back to Houston riding a four-game winning streak, the Cougars will open their American Athletic Conference play with a showdown against UCF on Friday.

RICE OWLS (8-5)

Last week (0-1): L - Sam Houston 75-61

This week: Thursday vs. Marshall, Saturday Western KY

The Rice Owls closed their non-conference schedule with a 75-61 loss to the Sam Houston State BearKats, Sunday afternoon inside the Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. The Owls struggled out of the gate on the offensive end, and had no answer on the defensive end giving up 27 points (11-17 FG & 13 Rebs) to Kai Mitchell, Sam Houston's senior big man who scored a game-high in the win.

Following the loss, the Rice Owls will open their conference play against Marshall on Thursday, inside the Cam Henderson Center in West Virginia.

BAYLOR BEARS (10-1)

Last week (1-0): W - Jackson State 83-57

This week: Saturday vs. Texas

The sizzling No. 6 Baylor Bears continued their early-season success with an 83-57 win over the Jackson State Tigers, Monday night, in Waco. After coming out of the gates missing their first six shots, Baylor closed out the first half on a 32-6 run to take a 48-24 by halftime.

Four players scored in double figures for the Bears, as Jared Butler recorded 18 points while MaCio Teague finished the night with 16 points and Davion Mitchell had 14. Closing out their non-conference schedule on a nine-game win streak, the Baylor Bears will host the Texas Longhorns on Saturday to begin their conference play.

TCU HORNED FROGS (9-3)

Last week (1-0): W - George Mason 87-53

This week: Saturday vs Iowa

Desmond Bane proved to be too much for the George Mason Patriots to handle, as the senior guard scored a season-high 30 points in an 87-53 win for the TCU Horned Frogs. It was a wire-to-wire victory for TCU with Bane scoring 21 points in the first half shooting 5-for-7 from behind the arc.

Following the win, the Horned Frogs will open their Big-12 schedule on Saturday against Iowa State inside the Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (9-3)

Last week: (1-0) W - CSU Bakersfield 73-58

This week: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

The Texans Tech Red Raiders won their fourth consecutive game in a convincing 73-58 victory over the California State Roadrunners on Sunday. As a whole, the Red Raiders stayed hot throughout the game, as Texas Tech shot 49.0% from the field, and a blazing 53% from behind the arc. Both Jahmi'us Ramsey and Kyler Edwards registered 20 points apiece, as the only players to score in double digits for Texas Tech.

Following the win, The Red Raiders will open their Big-12 Conference play against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Saturday, inside the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, TX.

SMU MUSTANGS (9-2)

Last week (0-0): No Games Scheduled

This week: Wednesday vs USF, Saturday Vanderbilt

With no games on the schedule, SMU will return to the floor on Wednesday, January 1st, for a New Year showdown against the University of South Florida Bulls.

LSU TIGERS (8-4)

Last week (1-0): W - Liberty 74-54

This week: Saturday vs Tennessee

Following back-to-back losses to East Tennessee and USC, the LSU Tigers closed out their none-conference games with a 74-57 win over the Liberty Flames on Sunday. Behind a 14-point performance from Darius Day shooting 54% from the floor, and a dozen coming from Skylar Mays, the Tigers handed Liberty their first loss of the season.

LSU will prepare to open the SEC play on Saturday in a match against the Tennessee Volunteers inside the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN.

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