Tim Nevius, a former NCAA investigator who then became an advocate for college athletes, has joined the sports media company Overtime Sports as its Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Athlete Advocacy.
Nevius had previously been outside counsel for Overtime.
He has also been a strong advocate of college athletes, which elaborated on a couple years ago in Sports Litigation Alert, which is included below.
“It’s been awesome working with Overtime for the last two years as it created a revolutionary new basketball league,” Nevius said in a statement. “It was a natural fit for me to join full-time as we continue to create new and exciting opportunities for athletes and change what’s possible in the sports industry.”
Previous to his stint at the NCAA, Nevius was an attorney at Winston & Strawn in New York. There, he helped initiate and lead a federal antitrust lawsuit on behalf of Division I athletes to challenge NCAA. He also advised high school, college, and Olympic athletes and their families on a variety of eligibility issues, including NCAA transfer cases, scholarship reductions, drug appeals, and waiver requests.
The interview, in abbreviated form, follows below.
Question: Tell us about your practice
Answer: I run the only law firm in the country dedicated exclusively to representing college athletes. I work on eligibility cases of all kinds and fight for solutions on behalf of college athletes, which is critical for them due to the absence of any independent representation in a system that doesn’t always put their interests first. I also run a non-profit dedicated to reform (the College Athlete Advocacy Initiative) and work with lawmakers and other advocates to drive policy change for the best interest of the athletes.
Q: How did you get attracted to this practice area?
A: I was a college baseball player at the University of Dayton and following law school, I wanted to stay involved in sports. I got hired at the NCAA in 2007 and was quickly assigned to some high-profile enforcement cases. After five years as an investigator, my perspective on the business of college sports really started to shift and I became a bit disillusioned by the vast inequities at play. After taking a year to earn an LL.M. at Columbia law, I joined Jeffrey Kessler’s practice at Winston & Strawn in New York. Shortly after that, I helped initiate and lead what is now known as the Alston litigation to challenge NCAA compensation rules. At Winston, I took a lot of calls from parents and athletes who sought legal help and I realized there was a high demand for advice related to athlete eligibility matters. So, in 2018, I started my practice and have been working almost non-stop since then.
Q: How would you grade the NCAA with regards to its creation of a solution to the transfer issue and its subsequent tweaks?
A: Poor. The rules should have changed years ago, and many athletes have suffered consequences as a result of the refusal to change sooner. Just two years ago athletes could be denied a release, which not only prevented their ability to seek an opportunity at a new school, but also prevented them from receiving financial aid at the next school, which was simply unconscionable. Division II still uses that rule, and I had a case last year in which a DII school’s refusal to grant a release was one of the more shameful displays I’ve seen by an athletics department. Now we have the portal, which is an improvement, but preventing athletes in some sports from immediate eligibility is just indefensible and the waiver process has become a bit of a circus. It needs to change right away.
Q: If you could change one thing about the NCAA, what would it be?
A: The slow and unwieldy bureaucracy that inhibits progress, even when desire exists for change. There are so many competing interests and an unhealthy number of politics that get in the way of timely and meaningful reform. Unfortunately, the consequences of that system usually fall on the athletes. It’s also disappointing when the NCAA engages in half-truths as a strategy for defending the crumbling facade of amateurism. Fortunately, most people are finally starting to see through that messaging, which is bad news for the NCAA. Its credibility has plummeted and it’s very hard to trust the system to take action on its own, especially for the interests of the athletes. That’s why we see the states and congress taking more and more interest. The NCAA only changes when forced to do so, although sometimes they would have the public believe otherwise.
Q: What is your relationship like with colleges and universities?
A: Very Good. Some universities come to me directly to work with their athletes. Several others have covered my legal fees, which provides representation for the athletes that they might not otherwise be able to afford I’ve worked closely with athletic departments and compliance directors on various cases and waivers with great success. I always appreciate the collaboration and team effort to reach the best result for the athletes. Most people understand that I’m an advocate for the athletes, first and foremost, and most of them are too. However, there are times when the interests of the University conflict with those of the athletes and we have to work together to find a resolution. Usually, it’s very amicable but sometimes can become contentious when the athletes aren’t getting a fair shake.