Attorney Peter Rush is banking on a comment that NCAA President Myles Brand said at the NCAA Convention last month about moving toward “a more flexible and less rigid approach to interpretation of our rules and granting of waivers when appropriate.”
Jeremy Bloom is banking on that comment, literally. Bloom is a talented college football player at the University of Colorado, who also happens to be a world champion moguls skier with a burning desire to medal at 2006 Winter Games. Bloom wants to play football, but also collect endorsements from his skiing fame to support the necessary training required to be a world champion skier. The NCAA has said that he can’t pocket endorsements and stay eligible on the gridiron.
For the most part, Bloom accepted that interpretation late last summer and put aside his skiing interests to play football. Now he has changed his tune and is challenging the NCAA in the courts as well as the media.
“There are people working on this, trying to resolve it outside of the courts,” said Peter Rush, a noted sports law attorney at Bell, Boyd and Lloyd in Chicago who is representing Bloom.
The NCAA, for its part, says the following:
“The NCAA has reached out to Mr. Bloom to find a solution and will continue to do so if appropriate,” read the statement issued to LICA. “Issues around amateurism — including endorsements — are of enormous concern to colleges and universities and to the collegiate model of athletics. The whole point of college sports is to educate student-athletes while you provide an opportunity for athletics participation, sometimes at an elite level.
“As important as this and other issues are to member schools, times change and the member colleges and universities should be, and in fact are, continuously engaged in examining how those changes affect the Association’s rules. As the Association reviews the issue of endorsements, the membership may choose to change the rules, but any change will be done with all student-athletes in mind versus one individual.”
If a solution can’t be reached, Rush anticipates that oral arguments will be heard before a federal court of appeals later this spring. One of Rush’s arguments will be that Bloom is seeking no more than what colleges provide when a student-athletes agrees to represent that college on the playing field, that is training and other necessary overhead.
If other recent decisions are an indication of how the NCAA is moderating its position on eligibility issues, then Bloom’s situation will likely work itself out before the fall semester. Bloom’s optimism should not only be fueled by Brand’s recent comments, but the NCAA’s favorable decisions involving FSU’s Diego Romero and Illinois’ Jon Beutjer (see related stories in this issue).
Whether Bloom gets a waiver or not, the NCAA won’t be changing the actual bylaw, 220.127.116.11, before August 2005 when such a change would have run its full legislative course.
The bylaw dealing with “Advertisements and Promotions Subsequent to Enrollment,” states: “Subsequent to becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual: (a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind, or (b) Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.”
Technically, Bloom has already violated the above rule, when it was announced earlier this month that he had reached an advertising deal with Equinox Fitness Club, a national fitness club chain.
“I have never been a quitter and I would never turn my back on the CU football program or my teammates,” Bloom said in a statement about the deal. “I want everyone to know that I will not willingly leave college football.”