By Daniel B. Fitzgerald*
Indiana University has followed the lead of neighboring Notre Dame and filled its Athletic Director’s position with an attorney from Indianapolis office of the law firm Baker & Daniels.
Similar to Jack Swarbrick, the attorney hired to lead the Fighting Irish athletic department, Fred Glass lacks experience as a university administrator. Glass, however, does possess sports experience. He played a role in the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium and with bringing a Super Bowl to Indianapolis. Now Glass will lead Indiana’s Athletic Department.
The hiring of Glass comes on the heels of a tumultuous period at Indiana, in which former men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson was found to have violated NCAA rules, ultimately leading to his dismissal, accompanied by a $750,000 buyout. Indiana faces the possibility of further sanctions from the NCAA.
In an interview with the Indiana Business Journal, Glass mentioned his experience as a lawyer as a unique skill that he brings to the job of athletic director: “I’m a lawyer. I think that helps me as a problem solver, and I think it helps me be a sophisticated consumer of legal advice.”
What Glass did not mention in that interview was the contractual aspects involved with the Sampson hiring and dismissal. Sampson, as has been widely reported, was hired by Indiana despite the school’s knowledge that he had broken NCAA rules while at Oklahoma. Sampson then proceeded to break the same rules he violated at Oklahoma and got caught. Despite it all, Indiana did not feel comfortable simply firing Sampson. Rather, Indiana negotiated a buyout to the tune of $750,000. One would certainly wonder whether Glass plans to review Indiana’s coaching contracts to provide the school with the power to deal with coaches who violate the rules appropriately, without the necessity of a buyout.
Given the complexity of coaching contracts, including buyout and termination clauses, the dollars involved with sponsorship deals, media deals and the watchful eye of the NCAA, hiring an attorney as athletic director makes sense. For Indiana, an institution that has often been known for strictly adhering to the rules, the hiring of Glass may be viewed as a step towards restoring the reputation of the athletic department. For attorneys with experience in the business of sports, it may represent an opportunity to utilize their legal training beyond the courthouse and into the fieldhouse.
*Daniel B. Fitzgerald, publisher of the blog Connecticut Sports Law (http://ctsportslaw.com), is an attorney at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. in Hartford, Connecticut, where he practices in the area of sports law. He can be reached at (860) 548-2613, or at email@example.com.