Conference Looks at Intersection of Law in Sports and Business
Jay Bilas, a former college basketball star and assistant coach who is now provides commentary on the sport for ESPN, used his platform at a recent sports business symposium held at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law on Oct. 3 to point out "a lot of interesting contradictions" within the NCAA, which both promotes and regulates college athletics.
Bilas, who played for Duke in the 1980s and earned his JD from its law school in 1992, was one of more than a dozen lawyers and professors, many of them former athletes, who participated in a symposium entitled, "The Intersection of Sports and Business in Today’s Legal Arena." Topics included stadium development, the controversial Bowl Championship Series that determines college football’s national champion, and the tension between athlete’s image and media rights.
In a keynote speech, Edwin Durso, executive vice president for administration at ESPN, urged students who want to follow him into sports law and business to, most importantly, "be a good lawyer." Study first, he advised, then look for opportunities and experiences in their desired field. And while he seeks expertise when he hires lawyers for ESPN, he especially values intelligence, integrity, and curiosity in his employees.
Bilas, who used his opening remarks to answer questions about the state of collegiate athletics, was polite but unsparing in his criticism of the NCAA. Among the "pretty glaring contradictions" within the NCAA was a recent statement by its president, Mark Emmert, that college sports is not a business. Bilas pointed out that, with television deals for college basketball and football reaching into the billions of dollars, college sports is a huge business.
He also said the NCAA must do more to protect athletes’ rights. When athletic programs are found to have broken rules, the NCAA may revoke a number of scholarships. But Bilas noted that student-athletes depend on athletic scholarships to attend college, and the sanction “ends up hurting kids who didn’t do anything wrong.” Meanwhile, he added, rules are written so strictly they build in distrust between athletic programs and the NCAA.
Instead, Bilas said punishments for serious violations should target coaches, athletic directors and even university presidents. "Presidents get off the hook more than anyone else" when athletic programs go astray, he said.