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Making Sense of College Coaching Contracts


“In addition to the growing financial commitments involved, negotiating college coaching contracts has become a far more complex procedure for both parties due to the non-standardized nature of each process and outcome. Unlike professional athletes and actors that collectively bargain for certain rights, every single coaching contract is a unique agreement unto-itself. Understanding the nuances of such contracts can allow for the creation of a sensible agreement that benefits and protects both sides, without making it a zero-sum game.”
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Supreme Court Finds Cheerleading Uniforms Copyrightable in Landmark Apparel Copyright Case

In the first apparel copyright case ever considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., the high court found on March 22, 2017 that decorative elements of a cheerleading uniform could be protected by copyright law.

Varsity Brands Inc., the country’s largest cheerleading supplier, sued Star Athletica LLC, an upstart rival, claiming that Star Athletica has used several two-dimensional design elements, such as stripes and chevron patterns, in which Varsity claimed copyright protection.

Apparel has typically been beyond the scope of the Copyright Act because it does not protect functional items. However, certain aspects of apparel may be protectable if they are either physically or conceptually separable from the functional aspect of the apparel.  Specifically, the Copyright Act provides protection to these certain aspects of a design “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspect of the article.”  17 U.S.C. § 101. Continue Reading »

Why Roger Goodell Might Be Glad The Super Bowl Is Not Competing With An eSports Event … Yet

sb51Every year, no sporting event attracts more viewers than the Super Bowl.  That will be the case again when the Patriots and Falcons square off in Super Bowl 51.  But not everything on TV is the same as it has been in the past.

In a recent column, Sports Business Journal media reporter John Ourand predicted the Super Bowl 51 audience will decline 5 percent from the 111.9 million people who watched Denver upset Carolina in Super Bowl 50.  If his prediction is accurate, it will be consistent with the trends that NFL broadcaster endured during the regular season and playoffs.  NFL ratings tumbled about 14 percent during the first half of the 2016 NFL regular season and reportedly finished down 8 percent from 2015.  In addition, seven of the 10 playoff games played to date have drawn fewer viewers than they did in 2015. Continue Reading »

Best Practices for Collegiate Coaches Regarding Title IX

Dana Drew Shaw

Dana Drew Shaw

Title IX continues to evolve and the future enforcement of the legislation may be somewhat uncertain due to the transition of leadership at the federal level as summarized by Marissa Pollick in her recent post. Despite this change, coaches still need to understand and follow the law and regulations in addition to working with university staff to develop and supervise Title IX initiatives.

The Title IX Mandate. Title IX provides that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The scope of Title IX expands beyond equitable participation opportunities, scholarships, and fair treatment based on gender in athletics and includes any sex-based discrimination in educational programs including sexual violence and misconduct.

Coaches must be familiar with these aspects of Title IX: Continue Reading »

Title IX Enforcement: Potential Changes for Schools and Universities


Marissa W. Pollick

Schools and universities should be informed that Title IX enforcement in the area of campus sexual assault might be scaled back or even eliminated under the new Trump administration. This is particularly significant for athletic directors, coaches, and conference commissioners who are focused on the proper role of collegiate athletic departments in combating and eradicating incidents of sexual violence perpetrated by athletes. Since 2011, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has issued detailed guidance documents and conducted investigations at more than 200 institutions involving allegations of this nature.  Continue Reading »

Shaw Serves as Panelist at NACWAA 2016 Rally


Marissa Pollick

Proud to attend the excellent panel presentation at the NACWAA Rally yesterday, featuring my Shumaker colleague Dana Drew Shaw, along with a packed room of women athletic administrators. The topic, Legal Aspects of Sport Supervision, led to an important discussion and analysis of the major areas of legal concern in collegiate athletic departments today, together with constructive solutions.

The panel clearly outlined legal issues involving Title IX sexual assault compliance, alleged abuse by coaches, and student-athlete welfare, as important areas of concern. Significant takeaways from her presentation include the necessity for education and training of coaches and administrators in these areas, clear written policies and procedures, as well as open and enhanced communication among administrators, coaches, and student-athletes regarding conduct and expectations. Our Shumaker team can assist with legal review and guidance in all of these areas.


O’Bannon’s End: Supreme Court Rejects Appellate Review


Seth Traub

The lawsuit against the NCAA over whether Division I men’s basketball and football players can be compensated for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses came to an abrupt end on Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions by both O’Bannon and the NCAA to review the case.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear O’Bannon (made without comment or explanation) leaves in place the September 2015 ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that (1) NCAA regulations are subject to antitrust scrutiny, and rules that prohibited student-athletes from receiving more than the value of a full grant-in-aid scholarship (tuition, fees, room, board and books) violated antitrust laws; and (2) while antitrust law requires that schools be allowed to provide student-athletes full cost of attendance scholarships, it does not require payments “untethered to educational expenses.” While the O’Bannon case ran its course through the appellate courts, the NCAA voluntarily increased the value of an athletic scholarship to include full costs of attendance beginning in the Fall of 2015, but the NCAA was adamant that compensation for student-athletes beyond education expenses threatened its amateurism system. Continue Reading »