Sports Law CLE w/UM Athletics - Ethical Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics


Peter Carfagna, the director of the sports law track for Miami Law’s Graduate Program in Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law, was joined recently by Blake James, UM’s Athletic Director, Dan Raben, assistant athletic director of compliance, and Marc Weinroth, assistant general counsel, for a discussion on “Ethical Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics: From Compliance to Pay-for-Play.”

Visiting Professor Peter Carfagna

The very well-attended CLE event on these cutting-edge issues attracted a large audience of Miami Law alumni and current students who greatly appreciated the careful thought and attention that the University’s Athletic and Legal Departments are paying to these evolving legal and ethical issues.

Leading into the event, Carfagna was asked the following general question as a prelude to the more detailed panel discussion:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the non-profit governing organization of college sports, earns over $1 billion in television and ad revenues for just the college basketball finals – March Madness – yet the athletes don’t share in the bounty. What is being done to benefit student athletes?

Peter Carfagna: There are a number of legal efforts underway – from lawsuits to efforts to unionize players.

One lawsuit, O’Bannon v. NCAA, filed on behalf of a class of college basketball and football players, was brought against the Association and the five largest college conferences. An appeals court found that “the N.C.A.A.’s compensation rules were an unlawful restraint of trade” but also found that compensation had to be tied to education.

As it stands now, student-athletes get no money beyond their "full cost of attendance" scholarships, and not just tuition, room and board payments, as was the case before the suit. The 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals found the NCAA to be in violation of antitrust laws while preserving the importance of amateurism in college sports. (Watch interview in which Carfagna discuss O’Bannon v. NCAA).

The court ruled that student-athletes cannot sell their publicity rights – their name, image, or likeness. Another now-pending case in the Northern District of California, Jenkins v. NCAA, again challenges the NCAA rules of amateurism. If successful, “no pay for publicity rights” would also be held as an Illegal restraint of trade.

The Jenkins complaint also claims that any cap on payments to student-athletes is a similar illegal restraint. Jenkins seeks to have no limit on what a student-athlete could be paid, however, this would create a free agent market where the best players could go to the highest college bidder. With no cap on player “salaries,” the NCAA “amateurism” model would be permanently broken, and chaos would ensue.

Visiting Professor Peter Carfagna is also Chairman/CEO of Magis, LLC, a privately owned sports marketing, management, and investment company, including family ownership of the Cleveland Indians Class A Affiliate. He has also been the Managing Member of LLC’s affiliated with many major-league Baseball teams, including the Boston Red Sox; Seattle Mariners; Houston Astros; and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Read more about the Sports Law track in the Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Program.