Stanford University Reverses Course After Lawsuit Is Filed, Reinstating Sports Programs

May 21, 2021 | NCAA

A lawsuit brought by student athletes at Stanford University achieved the desired effect when the school made a stunning announcement this week to reinstate 11 varsity athletics teams.

The student athletes were represented by Winston & Strawn, led by Co-Executive Chairman and leading sports law attorney Jeffrey Kessler as well as partners Jonathan Amoona and Jeanifer Parsigian.

Stanford downplayed the role of the legal challenge, instead citing “changed circumstances including newly galvanized philanthropic interest,” which provided “a new path to support the 11 sports.”

“We have new optimism based on new circumstances, including vigorous and broad-based philanthropic interest in Stanford Athletics on the part of our alumni, which have convinced us that raising the increased funds necessary to support all 36 of our varsity teams is an approach that can succeed,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

The presence of one of the most prominent sports law firms in the country in the controversy may suggest otherwise.

The lawsuit alleged that Stanford “hid its secret plan to eliminate varsity teams from the students and their families in order to fraudulently induce the students to choose to attend, and remain, at Stanford, rather than pursue their dreams to play at the varsity level at another institution. Stanford deliberately led the students to believe that all of the school’s varsity teams would continue to be supported in order to prevent the rapid loss of student athletes, coaches and alumni support.”

Specifically, it sought “redress for Stanford’s violations of California tort, contract and unfair competition laws, and a preliminary injunction to keep the teams in place while the lawsuit is pending.”

Kessler noted that “Stanford’s misrepresentations to these students and their families is in violation of California law and threatens to cause them lasting irreparable harm. The students are at the top of their game, and will lose the irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill their dreams to compete at the varsity level if Stanford is not stopped from eliminating these teams. Stanford has to live up to the relationship of trust it created with these athletes and we are seeking an injunction to prevent this injustice.”

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