Attorney Believes Settlement Could Have Repercussions for NCAA

Feb 13, 2009

In an exclusive interview with Sports Litigation Alert, attorney James S. Bryant of Stoller Partners suggested that a settlement between his client, Houston Baptist University, and the NCAA about the waiting period for schools to advance to Division I could lead to future litigation involving other schools with similar ambitions.
Bryant, who was joined in representing the plaintiff school by Dallas attorney Tom Thomas, suggested specifically that the NCAA may have put itself at risk for violating antitrust laws when it extended the waiting period for schools to achieve Division I status from three years to seven years. Whether lawsuits are filed or not, Bryant noted that the schools currently lined up to go Division I will likely seek to “negotiate” with the NCAA about a shorter waiting period.
In its April 2008 federal lawsuit, Houston Baptist claimed that the longer waiting period violated antitrust laws by preventing HBU and other new Division I entrants from competing in the NCAA’s post-season basketball tournament.
Under terms of the settlement, HBU will become eligible for active Division I membership by the 2011 – 2012 academic year, as, long as it completes certain requirements over the next two years. Among those requirements is the filing of annual reports and updated strategic plans. The school is also expected to complete a self-study and evaluation and undergo a compliance review by the NCAA.
HBU athletic director and men’s basketball coach Ron Cottrell told the Houston Chronicle that the school recognizes the work ahead of it.
“This is no slam dunk,” Cottrell said. “We still have a lot of things to get in order to achieve Division I status. “The good news is that we now know the timeline, and it’s exciting to know that it’s two years away instead of four.”
Bryant was gratified that the settlement will provide relief to other schools that are in line.
“When you have such a long waiting period, it is very difficult to attract the corporate sponsor or the student athletes that will allow you to be competitive at the Division I level,” said Bryant.


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