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College Sports, Division I, Education

NCAA Legislation Review: Bylaw 12.1.2.1.6 (Preferential Treatment, Benefits or Services)

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm continues its rules-education series with a review of NCAA legislation. Today’s post concerns NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2.1.6 (Preferential Treatment, Benefits or Services), which provides:

Preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual’s athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation.  [R] (Revised: 1/11/94, 1/14/08)

An NCAA official interpretation (published on June 6, 2000) of the bylaw states the following “objective guidelines generally should be used in determining whether such benefits are contrary to the legislation”:

1. Did the relationship between the athlete (or the athlete’s parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) develop as a result of the athlete’s participation in athletics or notoriety related thereto?

2. Did the relationship between the athlete (or the athlete’s parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the athlete’s status as a prospective student-athlete?

3. Did the relationship between the athlete (or the athlete’s parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the athlete’s status achieved as a result of his or her athletics ability or reputation?

4. Was the pattern of benefits provided by the individual to the athlete (or the athlete’s parents) prior to the athlete attaining notoriety as a skilled athlete similar in nature to those provided after attaining such stature?

Under the interpretation, “the origin and duration of a relationship and the consistency of benefits provided during the relationship are key factors in determining whether the benefits provided are contrary to the spirit and intent” of the legislation.

The bylaw has been applied in numerous enforcement (major and secondary), student-athlete reinstatement and legislative relief cases. The most recent published secondary case involving the bylaw occurred on October 19, 2011 (Secondary Case Number 47382) involving a Division I women’s water polo team:

Facts: During fall 2010, first year women’s water polo student-athlete (“SA”) received impermissible clothing from O’Neill Clothing. Specifically, SA received $194 in clothing through O’Neill Clothing based on a contract agreement she had since age 12 through December 31, 2010, in sport of surfing. Clothing SA received was from sample sales extras and would otherwise be donated or discarded by manufacturer. Clothing was sent directly to parents of SA. Violation was discovered when institution saw picture of SA on manufacturer’s website and discussed her relationship with company. SA indicated they had provided her with clothing while she was enrolled at institution.

Institution Action: Institution required SA to repay the value of the impermissible benefit received ($194) to a charity of her choice. SA was withheld from a date of competition. The date of competition was not among those dates used to qualify for the NCAA championship.

The NCAA staff reinstated the student-athete’s eligibility based on the institutional action of repayment and with the condition that SA be withheld from the next two regularly scheduled contests for the 2010-11 season (10 percent). The staff also declared te contests must be among those used for consideration for team selection for the NCAA championship.

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends NCAA member institutions: (a) review Bylaw 12.1.2.1.6 at an upcoming rules-education workshop or in rules-education materials; and (b) conduct adequate follow-up if the institution obtains allegations of that a prospective or enrolled student-athlete is receiving, or has received, preferential treatment, benefits or services.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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