Collegiate Sports and NCAA Attorneys

Success in intercollegiate athletics today requires more than winning teams. It requires a detailed knowledge of, and scrupulous compliance with, a multitude of rules and laws.

It requires the management of staff and resources in a manner that is fiscally sound and consistent with the educational mission of the institution. It requires taking every precaution to protect institutional integrity in an area that can generate intense public attention. In this complex environment, there are times when the best of efforts can go awry and additional resources are needed to meet these challenges.

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The lawyers in our group have earned a national reputation based on integrity and results.

We have accomplished this by applying our considerable knowledge and experience to serve the needs of our clients, while assisting them in the fulfillment of their obligations as National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) - and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) - member institutions. The thoroughness of our investigations and reports in major infractions cases, combined with the strength of our strategies for corrective measures in compliance systems, have been repeatedly cited by the NCAA Committee on Infractions as significant factors in mitigating penalties for client institutions.

We also have recognized that prevention of violations is essential to both institutional control and cost containment, which are imperatives of intercollegiate athletics management. We help accomplish this by identifying compliance and monitoring systems' deficiencies that expose the institution to possible violations and by proposing strategies that strengthen these systems. Our consultations with clients have, in many cases, eliminated the need for further involvement of a more significant or serious nature.

Our working arrangements with clients are flexible with the goal of establishing an effective partnership with an institution and its legal counsel.

The track record of our collegiate sports practice is unparalleled in both the scope and the magnitude of the NCAA-related matters for which we have been retained and the results we have achieved. We also have made a number of significant innovations and contributions to the industry.

Our experience includes:

  • The first successful presentation to the NCAA Committee on Infractions that allowed an institution to avoid a finding of a major violation in response to an allegation of lack of institutional control.
  • Representing multiple Division I institutions in the initial infractions cases referred to the NCAA Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP).
  • Successful appeals of NCAA Committee on Infractions penalties through the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.
  • Representing the first Division I institution to process an infractions case under the NCAA summary-disposition procedure, and multiple Division I institutions with cases resolved through the Negotiated Resolution process (introduced in 2018).
  • Establishing the practice of including detailed reports on an institution's compliance system enhancements in institutional responses and reports to the NCAA Committee on Infractions. These reports consistently are cited among the key mitigating factors for imposing less than the minimum penalties prescribed by NCAA enforcement procedures.
  • Successful legislative relief waivers and appeals for reinstatement of eligibility for student-athletes under the best conditions consistent with the individual situation.
  • Representing a Division I institution and student-athlete in one of the first appeals to the NCAA Division I Administrative Review Subcommittee, resulting in the restoration of a season of competition to the student-athlete, and continuing representation of numerous institutions and student-athletes in that process.
  • Assistance to institutions in properly applying NCAA rules to specific situation and in working with the NCAA staff and interpretations process.
  • Assisting member institutions and conferences in compliance with NCAA health and safety standards and guidelines established by the NCAA Sport Science Institute; 
  • Representing clients in Arrington concussion compliance and in NCAA class-action concussion litigation;
  • Developing a unique case-study method for conducting NCAA rules education seminars for coaches.
  • Developing the first institutional audit program for NCAA rules compliance.
  • Developing the first thorough systems for monitoring student-athlete summer jobs,  student-athletes' automobiles, and institutional sports camps and clinics.
  • Designing and presenting an in-depth national training seminar for internal auditors responsible for conducting NCAA rules compliance audits.

Our attorneys can assist your institution as it prepares for the NCAA certification process by providing an outside, independent assessment of your institution's compliance with the operating principles on which certification is based.

This assessment, backed by our experience working with intercollegiate athletics programs nationwide, enables us to make practical recommendations to elevate your compliance programs to the level necessary for certification. 

Bond’s collegiate sports practice has set the standard in the design and implementation of NCAA and conference rules compliance programs.

Our knowledge comes from our extensive firsthand infractions case experience, from having designed numerous preventive systems, and from having helped institutions implement new systems or refine current systems as issues are identified in infractions investigations or compliance reviews. The reports of our compliance systems assessments are thorough, and contain a full complement of best-practice recommendations founded on industry standards. 

Academic Integrity Review

Since 1991, our attorneys have conducted hundreds of potential major (Level I/II) infractions case investigations, and countless investigations of potential NCAA rules violations that were determined to be secondary (Level III) or non-violations.

We have achieved unequaled results in those cases by working cooperatively with NCAA and conference representatives, appropriately asserting the institutions', coaches' and student-athletes' rights, and fairly evaluating the evidence. In total, we have represented more than 200 Division I institutions and numerous Division II and III institutions in such investigations and processing of infractions cases. We also have been involved in countless Summary Disposition and Negotiated Resolution cases and, when appropriate, we assist institutions in processing the appeal of decisions in an infractions case. When, after all available evidence has been obtained, an alleged violation is not supported, we say so and support our conclusion. When an alleged violation is proven, we help the institution identify ways to enhance its rules education and monitoring programs to ensure that the violation is not repeated.

Just as with infractions cases, we have extensive, successful experience in student-athlete eligibility reinstatement cases.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of preparing an appeal of an NCAA staff decision in an eligibility reinstatement case is that an institution generally only has limited experience with such cases and must rely on the NCAA staff for direction. When you retain us to assist, the student-athlete and the institution benefit from our extensive knowledge and experience in reinstatement cases and our ability to present the circumstances in a manner that personalizes the case. As a result, the student-athletes have the best opportunity to receive a fair and appropriately considered result, and to return to competition as promptly as the facts permit.

In 2014, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors gave wide ranging discretion to the NCAA staff related to the regulation of student-athlete activity. That discretion empowers the NCAA staff to carefully evaluate and grant more waiver requests in favor of student-athlete welfare. 

Excerpt from the NCAA Division I Board of Directors January 18, 2014 Report

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a Temporary Review Process for Specified Regulatory Waivers, Amateurism Certification Decisions and Student-Athlete Reinstatement Conditions until such time as a new governance structure is in place or a period of no longer than two years, at which time the process would be reevaluated. Specifically, after determining the impact of a prescribed penalty, the NCAA staff has been provided the authority consideration of mitigating factors that may justify departure from the established penalty or outcome in the following categories of cases:

  • Cases involving the health and safety of a student-athlete, or instances in which the prescribed penalty or outcome would likely have a significant negative impact on a student-athlete’s well-being.
  • Cases involving prospective or enrolled student-athletes who have served active duty in the military or who have delayed collegiate enrollment due to serving official religious missions.
  • Cases that involve the potential for significant withholding conditions (e.g., a year in residence and one or more seasons of intercollegiate competition, loss of all or part of final year of eligibility), despite the existence of circumstances indicating that the application of prescribed penalties is disproportionate or otherwise inconsistent with the intent of the legislation.
  • Cases involving nominal or inconsequential benefits to student-athletes.

Our attorneys and consultants have more than a century of combined experience in addressing every aspect of the NCAA regulatory environment. We have successfully advocated and achieved positive results in student-athlete eligibility matters in all of the following categories:

  • Initial Eligibility
  • Two- and Four-Year Transfers
  • Legislative Relief
  • Progress Toward Degree
  • Extension of Eligibility
  • Student-Athlete Reinstatement
  • PSA Reviews

With the addition of Kyle Ritchie in the Spring of 2020, our Collegiate Sports Practice Group further expanded its ability to assist institutions and conferences in the emerging field of health and safety compliance.

Kyle’s first-hand experience results from his direct involvement in the NCAA Concussion Class Action litigation currently taking place in the Northern District of Illinois (MDL No. 2492) and from assisting numerous conferences and institutions in assessing risk and ensuring compliance with established medical standards of care in both conditioning and the athletic training room.  We are able to work with our clients to ensure they are positioned to support collegiate athletics in the future and are able to provide the best possible care for their student-athletes. 

Bond provides counsel and support on a wide range of matters impacting an intercollegiate athletics program, including:

  • Negotiation and preparation of coaches' employment contracts on behalf of colleges and universities;
  • Negotiation and preparation of radio and television contracts;
  • Negotiation and preparation of bowl game agreements;
  • Consultation on NCAA Event Certification for bowl game and other sponsoring organizations;
  • Negotiation and preparation of sponsorship agreements;
  • Negotiation and preparation of personnel searches, and specifically Head Coaches and Athletics Directors;
  • Assistance in formation of conferences and other groups;
  • Consultation on conference transition and membership withdrawal;
  • Evaluation of conference structures and regulations for consistency with NCAA rules and fair application to members; and,
  • Counseling on unrelated business income tax and other tax matters.

The attorneys and consultants at Bond, Schoeneck & King are well versed in all aspects of the NCAA regulatory environment.

Our Collegiate Sports Practice Group includes former members of the NCAA staff who know how to navigate the oftentimes daunting and confusing NCAA rules and NCAA eligibility processes. They have successfully advocated for student-athletes’ eligibility in a variety of complicated circumstances including NCAA initial-eligibility certifications, NCAA amateurism concerns, NCAA transfer situations and NCAA academic issues, among others.
Our attorneys understand the NCAA process and are passionate about helping young athletes, their families and coaches understand their options and how to make the appropriate case for establishing and maintaining NCAA eligibility.

Bond's long-standing involvement in the law of higher education, combined with the athletics world experience of the firm's collegiate sports practice, puts us in a unique position to help an institution objectively assess and defend its athletics programs' compliance with Title IX requirements. This extensive experience also enables us to assist institutions in developing or refining a practical plan of action to address gender equity issues.

Through the firm's higher education practice, we have assisted several institutions in their Title IX/Gender Equity reviews, have successfully defended institutions against which Title IX lawsuits have been brought, and have consulted institutions on potential Title IX lawsuits.