Hogan Lovells Eases Its Way Into NCAA Compliance Work, Securing Victory for KU

Nov 17, 2023

Hogan Lovells secured a major victory on behalf of the University of Kansas, successfully defending the university and the Jayhawks’ men’s basketball and football programs against potentially draconian sanctions for alleged NCAA recruiting and benefits violations asserted by the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Review Process enforcement arm.

This multi-year investigation and litigation was triggered by a federal fraud prosecution of individuals previously associated with an athletics apparel sponsor who paid bribes to family and guardians of prospective student athletes at several universities, including Kansas. Following the hearing, NCAA’s Independent Review Panel ruled for the University on every disputed issue in the case. 

Specifically, the panel found that the program’s coaches did not know of any scheme or payments from employees and consultants of the apparel company to encourage parents and guardians of prospective student athletes to attend the university; it found the coaches did not ask them to assist in recruiting athletes. And it found the University cooperated with the NCAA investigation and did not fail to exercise institutional control over its athletics program.

“This is a significant, favorable outcome on behalf of the University,” said Ginny Gibson, a litigation partner in Hogan Lovells’ Philadelphia office. “We are pleased that the NCAA Independent Review Panel agreed with our clients’ consistent assertions that the University had a rigorous and effective compliance program, it self-disclosed to the NCAA certain apparel consultant activity with a family member as soon as it discovered it, and it had no involvement in or knowledge of any wrongdoing.”

The NCAA’s Independent Accountability Review Process was formed at the recommendation of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the fraud convictions of several former Adidas employees and consultants at the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in 2018. The University of Kansas has made several enhancements to its already rigorous compliance program in relation to sponsor activities on campus and last year self-imposed a number of penalties involving coach travel for recruitment, visits by student athlete to campus, reducing scholarships, and sitting its coaches for three regular season games.

The cross-office team of partners was led by Ginny Gibson (Philadelphia), Peter Spivack (Washington, D.C.), and Ben Fleming (New York); senior associates Alex Bailey (Boston) and Jimmy McEntee (Washington, D.C.); and paralegal Katie O’Brien and Jessica Bigby (both Washington, D.C.).

More on the NCAA’s decision can be found here.

This is the firm’s second straight win before the panel, following a similar victory on behalf of the University of Louisville in 2022.

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