Troubled by a Large Number of Coaches Breaking their Contracts
In collegiate sports one of the most controversial issues is the ability of coaches to switch from one team to another. This is troubling as many schools will claim that the best coaches are being lured to bigger programs (with more money). A good example of this can be seen with Lane Kiffin leaving the University Tennessee’s football program (after he was abruptly hired by USC). Commenting about the choice to move Kiffin said, “This was not an easy decision. This is something that happens very quick. We’ve been here 14 months, and the support has been unbelievable here. I really believe the only place I would have left here to go was Southern California.” Moreover, during his move he focused on hiring different assistant coaches from the same or other programs. This is problematic, as these actions are highlighting how coaches are using the opt out clauses of legally binding agreements (versus honoring a contract they signed in good faith). (“Kiffin to Coach USC”)
As a result, the NCAA rule of banning one school from hiring an existing coach under contract is raising a sense of anger. To fully understand what is taking place requires looking at: the legal measures / challenges and the legal theories the NCAA could use to justify its actions. Together, these elements will highlight the legal challenges on both sides and their arguments to support their position.
Is such a measure legal and what legal challenges, if any, could be brought against this rule?
The biggest legal measures that the NCAA will utilize, is that they have the right to enforce existing contracts. This is something that all organization in sports will use during the process of establishing an agreement between the management and coaching staff. In this case, the management is the university board of regents. Moreover, NCAA policy requires that all parties must meet the following conditions when engaging in contracts to include: good faith and fair dealings. These factors are showing how the NCAA has a strong case is based upon traditional practices (which are legal). (Poputto)
A good example of this can be seen with Bloom v. NCAA. In this case, a professional skier wanted to maintain his status and play for the University of Colorado football program. When he was declared ineligible, he sued the NCAA alleging that their rules were a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. This is because; there are consortiums of regulations that provide no clear policy. The Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the NCAA. They felt that these rules were within the scope of their authority of controlling the actions of athletes and the college sports. These facts can be used to demonstrate that the policy of coaches breaching their contracts is in compliance with legal guidelines and case precedent. (“Bloom v. National Collegiate Athletic Association”)
The biggest challenge against this policy is Law v. NCAA. Under this ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals found that any kind of attempts to restrict a coach’s salary is considered to be in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. At the same time, they found that the rule is discriminating against coaches by limiting their salaries and the numbers that can serve on a team. This is supposed to maintain the competitive balance inside the NCAA. However, the court found that the biggest beneficiary is the NCAA (who is reducing their costs dramatically). This can be used to show how there is case precedent, giving coaches the power to earn more money. As a result, if a coach opts out of their contract (using this clause), they have the right to seek out higher compensation and meet this requirement.
What legal theories could the NCAA use to defend its action for implementing such a rule?
The basic legal theory that the NCAA can use, is to show how their actions are in compliance with previous court rulings on contract law. Moreover, they can demonstrate how they are exempt from Title IX and other anti-discriminatory provisions. This is because they are not receiving direct funding from the federal government. Under NCAA v. Smith, the NCAA does not fall under this designation. The combination of these elements are showing how the NCAA is enforcing existing contracts and is not subject to anti-discrimination laws (i.e. Title IX). (“Title IX Cases”)
“Bloom v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.” Find Law, 2012. Web. 8 May 2012
“Kiffin to Coach USC.” ESPN, 2010. Web. 8 May 2012
“Title IX Cases.” Find Law, 2012. Web. 8 May 2012
Poputto, Josephine. “The NCAA Rules Adoption.”Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law. 12.22 (2010): 266 — 234. Print.
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