New Jersey Hits The Flop, But Will It Hit The River?

By:  Jonathan Gordon, Ruling Sports contributor (Twitter: @JonathanCGordon)

New Jersey took a monumental stride last week in its attempts to bolster the state’s gambling and betting scene. After five days of testing online gambling to ensure such a system can be effective and regulated, the state announced that residents are officially able to gamble online for traditional casino games such as poker, blackjack, and the like.

While New Jersey has drastically stimulated its gambling industry, it remains in the dark with regards to its sports betting industry. Looking back at the last few years shows just how far the state has come with online gambling – and just how far it still needs to go with sports betting.

ONLINE GAMBLING

January 2011: New Jersey legislature passes a bill that allows online gambling to take place as long as the computer servers which operate the gambling websites are located at licensed casinos in Atlantic City.

March 2011: New Jersey governor Chris Christie vetoes the January bill over various concerns.

February 2013: New Jersey (both the legislature and Christie) approves of a restructured bill allowing Internet gambling.

November 21, 2013: New Jersey implements a 5-day testing program to ensure online gambling systems are effective and efficient. All seven of the casinos that were granted Internet gambling permits are tested.

November 25, 2013: New Jersey gives all the tested casinos except for the Golden Nugget permission to immediately begin providing statewide online gambling services.

SPORTS BETTING

November 2011: New Jersey voters approve of a referendum allowing sports betting.

January 2012: Governor Christie signs referendum into law, legalizing sports betting.

August 2012: The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA file a federal lawsuit against New Jersey in an attempt to prevent the state from allowing sports betting.

February 2013: Federal court rules in favor of the leagues. New Jersey is not allowed to issue sports betting licenses.

September 2013: Three judge panel from the federal 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upholds the February ruling. New Jersey is still not allowed to issues sports betting licenses.

November 15, 2013: New Jersey asks the full court to hear its appeal. Its request is denied.

November 22, 2013: The state confirms that Governor Christie will take his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie: “Gov. Christie has said all along this issue should be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s what he hopes will happen next. He has asked the attorneys representing the state to file the necessary paperwork. The people of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to bring sports betting to New Jersey, and the Governor agrees with his constituents and will not give up this fight.”

What does this mean going forward? Will sports betting become legal in New Jersey? Interestingly, New Jersey sports betting and online gambling share a similar history. Both received a sense of approval at first, with the online gambling bill being passed by legislation and the referendum on sports betting being approved. Both, then, experienced setbacks as Governor Christie vetoed the online gambling bill and the NCAA and professional leagues sued the state over sports betting. While these similarities provide interesting context, they are by no means applicable in court. They do, however, give comfort to the state of New Jersey. Legal setbacks are common and the legal process can be a lengthy and arduous one. Will sports betting end up with the same fortunate fate online gambling did?

The issue is certainly an interesting one. When the professional leagues and the NCAA filed a federal lawsuit against New Jersey, they won on the claim that sports betting in New Jersey would directly violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Essentially, PASPA (a federal law enacted in 1992) makes sports betting illegal – except in the four states of Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon because these states legalized sports betting before the enactment of PASPA.

Though it was seemingly upheld in the original lawsuit, the main point of contention lies in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

New Jersey claims that PASPA violates this amendment. As sports betting is not an issue addressed by the Constitution, New Jersey believes the right to legalize sports betting should be determined by the State.

This seems to be a fairly valid argument for the state of New Jersey. However, New Jersey argued this same claim in the original lawsuit and lost in District Court. Will the Supreme Court reverse the decision?

Having already lost once, it would not be surprising to see New Jersey lose in its appeal. However, it would be no less surprising to see the state emerge victorious. Frankly, this would be the best decision for all parties involved.

For one, legalizing sports betting in New Jersey would provide a major boost to the state’s economy with hundreds of millions of additional revenue. Should other states follow and pursue sports betting as well, the national economy as a whole would be substantially better off. The government would be opening up an industry that is currently monopolized by Las Vegas.

Whether the government or the NCAA or the professional leagues wish to accept it or not, sports betting will still happen regardless of the final verdict. It happens today with offshore betting accounts and the like. By formally addressing its legality, the government can better regulate the industry.

Though the following is a bit outdated, it presents a similar situation to the one today. In 2000, the NCAA proposed to ban all sports wagering on non-professional (collegiate) events. Then-President of University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), Carol Harter addressed the issue:

“Outlawing legal betting on collegiate sports would neither eliminate nor significantly reduce betting on those sports. Rather, it would drive sports wagering further underground, on campuses and elsewhere…

At present, legal sports books assist the NCAA and law enforcement agencies by monitoring betting activities and alerting authorities (and each other) to anomalies, such as huge bets on underdogs, that may indicate illegal activity. Professor Shannon Bybee, director of the UNLV International Gaming Institute and a former member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, points out that it was Las Vegas sports books who tipped authorities to probable illegal activity involving an Arizona State basketball game in 1993.”

While this situation solely focused on collegiate sports, the same principles can be applied to include professional sports. Legalizing sports betting would reduce the presence of illegal sports books. Rightfully so, the NCAA and professional sports leagues are concerned about maintaining fair games. However, as Harter addresses, legalizing sports betting would actually help in this endeavor.

Legalizing sports betting would be best for all the parties involved. You can bet on that.  New Jersey may have flopped a winner with online gambling, but it remains to be seen what the river holds. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it’s another winner.

Born and raised in Las Vegas with casinos in his backyard, Jonathan Gordon is a junior at the University of Notre Dame and the founder of Sports Analytics Blog.

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WVU Sees Financial Gains In Its Move To The Big 12 Conference

In late 2011, the roller coaster that was NCAA conference realignment picked up another rider:  West Virginia University.  In October 2011, WVU accepted a bid from the Big 12 to join the conference.  WVU’s acceptance of the Big 12′s invitation was made with both the university’s current needs and future goals in mind.  ”Our goal really as an institution was to find what I would call a ‘big time, power conference.’  Folks at the university and in the state believed that the Big East was crumbling.  We believed that with the state of demise the Big East was in during 2011, that we had to find a big time power conference where we could continue to maintain a high level of competition on a national level,” said WVU’s athletics director, Oliver Luck.

After a lawsuit was filed by WVU to escape the Big East without complying with the conference’s 27-months notice provision and a countersuit was filed by the Big East, a settlement in early 2012 paved the way for WVU’s move to the Big 12.  In the fall of 2012, WVU began competition in the Big 12.  Since that time, WVU has enjoyed gains from competing in the conference.

One of the biggest areas in which WVU has seen growth, is in conference revenue.  In the first fiscal year that WVU was a member of the Big 12, WVU earned $10,354,499 in conference revenue.  This number was up four-percent from the conference share it earned during its last fiscal year as a member of the Big East.  What’s notable about this increase, is that WVU is not receiving a full share of Big 12 conference revenue.  It will not receive a full share of Big 12 conference revenue until 2016-17.  That WVU is able to bring in more conference revenue in the Big 12 without receiving a full conference share, signals the value of its move from the Big East to the Big 12.  ”With the move to the Big 12, we have seen all of our financial metrics move forward,” Luck noted.

Another area in which WVU has seen revenue growth since moving to the Big 12, is contributions.  In its first fiscal year as a member of the Big 12, WVU brought in $1,164,503.00 more contributions than it did in its last year as a member of the Big East.  According to Luck, WVU set a school record for fundraising donations last year during its first year as a member of the Big 12.

While the move to the Big 12 has generated increased revenue for WVU, another move WVU made in 2011 is paying off financially.  That decision–to sell beer at home football games–has brought WVU significant revenue since 2011.  For the 2011 football season, WVU had a 50-50 split with its concessionaire for revenue generated from beer sales.  That year, WVU earned $516,551.41 from beer sales, with the top-selling game being the Mountaineers’ game against LSU.  WVU’s home game against LSU, which was attended by 62,056 people, generated $120,469.81 worth of beer sales revenue for WVU.

In moving to the Big 12 in 2012, WVU saw its beer sales revenue increase.  Still sharing a 50-50 split with its concessionaire for beer sales revenue, WVU earned $632,694.58 from beer sales in 2012.  What’s notable about this, is that WVU’s football attendance in 2012 was actually lower than in 2011, by an average of just under 8,000 fans per game.  Yet, fans were spending more on beer in 2012 than they were in 2011.

WVU appears to be set to set another record for beer sales revenue in 2013.  This year, WVU’s new contract with concessionaire Sodexo allows WVU to keep 52-percent of the revenue from beer sales.  Ahead of the Iowa State game, WVU had brought in $482,377.02 in beer sales this season.  In home games against Texas and Oklahoma State, WVU brought in over $100,000 in revenue from beer sales this year.

While WVU has seen areas of revenue increase since moving to the Big 12, certain expenditures have grown.  One major expense in particular has increased in the move to the Big 12:  Travel expenses.  Travel expenses in the last year that WVU was a member of the Big East to its first year in the Big 12 increased by 36-percent, from $5,095,132.00 to $6,920,683.  The increase in travel expenses for WVU is the result of competing against teams that are located further away than the school’s former Big East competitors.  ”While we’ve increased our travel budget, it is not because we are flying more often, but rather, because we are flying longer,” Luck explained.

In WVU’s first two years as members of the Big 12, Luck has identified several hurdles that the athletics department must overcome.  ”The biggest hurdles are two things.  First, everything is new.  Coaches are creatures of habit.  They know the routine.  Going into a new venue is interesting, but also a challenge.  The second hurdle, is that by and large, the level of competition is higher in the Big 12.  We need to figure out how to compete better, recruit better, coach our student-athletes better, improve their facilities and increase our coaches’ salaries, to ensure they are on par,” Luck said.

What, then, is Luck’s plan to address these issues?  It is a plan that will likely be supported by WVU fans:  ”My theory is we have to address all of the hurdles at once,” he said.  To do that, WVU is increasing coaches’ salaries, recruiting in more areas across the nation and spending to build and improve facilities for its teams.

While WVU continues to make changes to improve its athletics programs, one thing is certain for now:  The Big 12 is its home.  ”I’m a believer that our university is a lot like the other public schools in the Big 12.  We are a land grant institution that is a landmark school in its state.  As I look at Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, I see schools that are very much like ours. . . . I think that in this conference, we find ourselves at home,” Luck remarked.

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Jerry Jones’ 1995 Risk Allows The Dallas Cowboys To Become Leaders In The Growing Women’s Sports Apparel Market

Risk taking is necessary for a business to grow.  For Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a risk that he took in 1995 has had a significant payoff in his team’s ability to enter into the growing business of women’s sports apparel.

Seven years before Jones became the Cowboys’ owner, NFL owners voted to create the NFL Trust.  This resulted in each team transferring the exclusive right to use its club marks for commercial purposes to the NFL Trust.  The NFL Trust then entered into license agreements with NFL Properties to provide NFL Properties the exclusive right to license the trust’s property.  The motivation behind creating the NFL Trust was the thought that when placed into the market together, the value of all NFL team marks would be higher than if teams attempted to negotiate licensing deals on their own.

In 1993, NFL owners began capitalizing upon their decision to create the NFL Trust.  That year, Coca-Cola signed a five-year contract worth a reported $250 million to become the official soft-drink of the NFL.  In 1995, Visa USA would sign the then second-largest partnership agreement with the NFL, a five-year deal worth $50 million, to become the NFL’s exclusive payment card sponsor.

In the background of these deals, though, was Jones.  Not a team owner when NFL owners voted to create the NFL Trust, Jones realized that he and the Cowboys were in a situation unique from most other NFL teams:  The Cowboys didn’t need a stable of teams to secure lucrative endorsement deals.

With the business savvy cured from his education, which includes a Master’s degree in business, and successfully running his own Jones Oil and Land Lease, Jones set out to capitalize upon the brand recognized as “America’s Team.”  The owner of not only the Dallas Cowboys, but also their stadium, Texas Stadium Corporation, Jones entered into multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements with American Express, Pepsi and Nike through Texas Stadium Corporation.

While arguably not directly contravening the terms of the NFL Trust, since only teams and not stadiums were part of the trust, Jones nonetheless secured the ire of the NFL.  At an owners meeting in Atlanta in 1995, Jones was served with a $300 million lawsuit filed by NFL Properties.  The lawsuit raised claims including violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith, unjust enrichment and tortious interference with contractual rights.

In response to the lawsuit, Jones and the Cowboys filed a motion to dismiss.  This motion was granted in part.  Then, Jones took a big risk:  He filed a $750 million antitrust lawsuit against the league.  It was this legal maneuver that put the Cowboys on the ground to becoming the most valuable NFL franchise.  In 2013, Forbes valued the team at a league-wide high of $2,300 million.

With portions of its lawsuit dismissed, Jones’ antitrust lawsuit motivated the NFL to do one thing:  Settle.  The settlement agreement Jones reached with the NFL allowed Texas Stadium Corporation to maintain its contracts with American Express, Pepsi and Nike.  It also provided every other NFL team the opportunity to sign their own stadium sponsorship agreements.  Arguably, though, Jones was the big winner of the settlement agreement, as he also retained the right for the Cowboys to enter into their own licensing agreements.  It is this right that allows the Cowboys to create merchandise apart from the NFL’s licensing agreements.

Today, the Dallas Cowboys are using the footing they gained through the contentious litigation to further build the value of their brand.  With the NFL identifying 44-percent of its fans as being female, in recent years, the league has taken a proactive approach to providing women with apparel choices that better suit their fashion sense.  Leading the league in this effort, are the Dallas Cowboys.

In recent years, the Cowboys have utilized their licensing capabilities to enter into team-exclusive partnership agreements with women’s apparel designers, including PINK by Victoria’s Secret and Peace Love World.  The partnership with PINK was born six years ago. According to Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, Charlotte Jones Anderson, “Sales of PINK merchandise in our pro shops was so successful, that PINK wanted to create a stand-alone store in our stadium.  We are the only team to have our own stand-alone store and the first team to enter into a licensing agreement with PINK to produce Cowboys-only apparel.”

Seeing how female fans flocked to the team’s PINK merchandise, Jones Anderson set out to find other licensees to partner with to create Cowboys women’s apparel lines.  ”Seeing how successful our PINK line was really inspired us to go out again and find another partner to do something similar,” Jones Anderson said.  Earlier this year, the Cowboys partnered with Peace Love World to create a line of women’s apparel featuring tops, tanks, hoodies and pants with phrases including, “I Love Sundays” and “I am Dallas.”

For Peace Love World founder Alina Villasante, the growing trend of teams and leagues investing in women’s apparel opportunities has been good for business.  Launched in 2007, Peace Love World was born as a brand focused upon “spreading peace and love all over the world,” according to Villasante.  In wasn’t until 2013 when that the spreading of that message reached the sports space.

During the Miami Heat’s 2013 NBA Finals run, Villasante, a Miami resident, was contacted by Heat executives to begin producing women’s apparel for fans.  Through promotion solely on social media streams, Villasante’s creations, featuring phrases like, “I am Champion” and “I am Miami,” sold out in seven minutes.  ”The clothes got to the AmericanAirlines Arena and within seven minutes, they were sold out.  The team called me and told me to take the pictures of the items off of Instagram, because they had already sold out.  It was a great introduction for what I was going to be facing in the future in partnering with sports teams,” Villasante recalled.

The taste of success in the sports marketplace that Peace Love World experienced during the NBA Finals allowed Villasante to recognize that sports could provide a unique opportunity for her company to grow.  ”Women have been hungry to show up to games looking like we are ready to go out with our friends and to be very fashionable.  I wanted to provide women with clothing that gives them the feelings of femininity and loyalty, while also looking like a sports fan,” Villasante said.

Seeing the success that Villasante and Peace Love World achieved in their partnership with the Miami Heat, the Cowboys contacted her to build a line for the team.  Throughout the season, Peace Love World merchandise has been promoted not only in the Cowboys’ team store and online storefront, but in pop-up shops and at an NFL style lounge event.  For someone whose business plan did not initially include entering the sports marketplace, Villasante calls her sports partnerships with the Heat and Cowboys “the best thing that’s happened to me in the four-and-a-half years since I’ve launched Peace Love World.”

Jones Anderson credits the Cowboys’ capabilities to license their own merchandise for providing the team with an opportunity to take risks in the women’s apparel arena.  ”We are the only team that can produce, license and sell our own merchandise as a complete business,” Jones Anderson noted.  This ability has allowed the Cowboys to test the marketplace in ways that other teams are unable to.  ”For the longest time, people in retail believed that jerseys, hats and plain t-shirts were driving sales in the industry.  Taking a step into a market that is more luxury-oriented, like women’s apparel, was thought to have more risk behind it.  People didn’t have the cojones to jump in and try something if it wasn’t going to work,” Jones Anderson said.

With their own merchandising entity, Dallas Cowboys Merchandising, Ltd., the Cowboys had the flexibility to take risks when entering the women’s apparel marketplace.  ”For us, since we are able to do it just for us, we can run a test to see if there’s real traction in the brand.  It’s been incredible.  Our fans have been very receptive and they love that we are thinking of them differently,” Jones Anderson said.

Like business, success in fashion involves taking risks.  With the NFL finding that its women’s apparel sales have tripled in recent years, taking risks to meet the wants of fashion-forward female sports fans is likely to pay off for teams like the Cowboys and women’s sports apparel creators like Peace Love World.

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A Look At NASCAR’s Unique Approach To Increasing Official Partners’ Return On Investment

On the Thursday before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, decision makers from a who’s who list of Fortune 500 companies gathered in a meeting space at the trendy Fontainebleau Miami Beach.  Sipping Coca-Cola around tables as salsa music beat over the room’s speakers, the Fortune 500 movers and shakers brokering deals were in the room for one reason:  NASCAR brought them.

When it comes to sports properties, NASCAR boasts one of the most extensive lists of corporate sponsors.  This racing season, the number of official NASCAR partners neared 60.  The value a corporation reaps in partnering with NASCAR is vast in the sense that every Sunday, their logo travels around a race track in front of millions of eyes.  Yet, in an economic age where corporations have limited budgets to spend on sports marketing, NASCAR recognized that it must provide a greater return on investment for its official partners.  “So many partners are looking for return on investment,” said NASCAR’s vice president of partnership marketing, Norris Scott.

Wanting to provide its corporate sponsors with more return on their investment, NASCAR created its Fuel For Business Council.  The council provides NASCAR’s official partners the opportunity to engage in quarterly business-to-business meetings where they can buy and sell goods, forge marketing partnerships and network.  “Nine years ago, NASCAR had a group of partners get together to talk about more ways they could drive value out of their sponsorship.  Naturally, one of the options was to create a platform for our partners to get business back from their sponsorship investment,” Scott said.

Today, the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council allows NASCAR’s official partners to meet quarterly at NASCAR-hosted events to buy and sell products from one another.  In the business-to-business environment facilitated by NASCAR, official partners not only buy and sell products, but also learn from one another how to best benefit from their partnership with NASCAR.  “It makes good business sense to give our partners a platform to grow their businesses.  Nobody is immune to the economy.  That fact plays an even more important role, because marketers are scrutinizing their overall budgets.  Sports marketing isn’t immune to that scrutiny.  The opportunities the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council provides allows our official partners more of a measure of the return on their investment,” Scott explained.

Ford Motor Company is one official NASCAR partner that has benefited from the opportunities that the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council provides.  A participant in the council since its creation, Ford Motor Company has utilized the council to drive its “Partner Recognition Program.”  Through this program, Ford Motor Company offers other official NASCAR partners’ employees the opportunity to purchase its vehicles at discounted costs, and also works with official partners to supply their fleet vehicle needs.

The return on investment Ford Motor Company has seen in taking its business to NASCAR’s Fuel For Business Council meetings is vast.  In 2012, Ford Motor Company sold over 5,500 vehicles to NASCAR official partners.  One of its largest vehicle sales resulting from the partnership in 2012 was worth over $5 million.

For Ford Motor Company, the value garnered through the NASCAR Fuel For Business council’s business-to-business meetings brings an extra layer of worth to its NASCAR investment.  “It’s a real big win-win for us, because it allows us to measure some of our investment into the sport.  With what Ford and the auto industry have been through, it’s been a challenge from an investment standpoint to decide where to use marketing dollars.  You want to be able to measure a return on any of your expenditures when you are reaching out to customers in an advertising marketing way.  For the dollars we spend in the sport, we want to calculate a return on investment.  One of the best ways to do that in NASCAR, is to not only calculate it based upon what’s going on on the track and the impressions made through the media, but also behind the scenes from a business-to-business standpoint,” said Ford Racing’s motorsports marketing manager, Tim Duerr.

While the opportunity to engage with other official partners in a business-to-business environment is valuable, perhaps the best thing NASCAR provides to support its Fuel For Business council is a layer of accountability.  Each NASCAR official partner is assigned to a NASCAR account manager.  That account manager ensures that official partners meet with the corporations they want to engage with at council meetings.  Furthermore, after the meetings, the account manager follows up with all parties to help facilitate the conclusion of transactions.  “With the way NASCAR has structured the program and how they bring people together to build relationships and follow up to hold you accountable, it really gives you a second level of coverage to make sure that the thoroughness is there,” Duerr commented.

The commitment to the council’s success is one not only held by Duerr and NASCAR, but shared by all official partners who participate.  “A couple of things make the council special.  For one, it’s all about exclusivity in the room.  Even though the partners in the room may be competitors in the sport, they know that when they enter the room to do business, they have the advantage of their competitors not being in the room.  The other piece that makes this successful is the commitment the partners have.  They are all trying to find that return on investment,” NASCAR’s Scott noted.

Going into its tenth year of existence, NASCAR’s Fuel For Business council is only getting fired up.  When it comes to future plans of how the council can benefit NASCAR’s official partners, Scott notes, “We want to continue to be innovative.”  For a sports entity that provides its sponsors with a business-to-business opportunity unlike that of any other sports entity, innovation should not be hard to find moving forward.

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What’s Leading More Offensive Coaches Than Defensive Coaches To BCS Head Coaching Positions

In recent years, all of the talk in college football has centered around defense.  The three BCS national championships Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have managed to win under a defense-oriented play system have led the battle cry of college football enthusiasts declaring that a strong defense is the most certain way to win games.  While few offenses have been able to manage Alabama’s defense since 2009, one thing is certain:  The tides are changing.

Like anything else, college football is cyclical.  A good defense can only survive until a better offense arises to beat it.  If head coaching hirings at the BCS level are any indication, that day is approaching.

16 new head coaches took the helms of BCS teams this season.  Of those 16, only six have no experience coaching offensive positions (Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen, Syracuse’s Scott Shafer, North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema).

With 62.5-percent of BCS head coaching hires this year holding extensive offensive experience, one must question what’s motivating these hires.  Texas A&M’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Jake Spavital, has an idea of what’s leading the trend.  ”If you look back through the 1990s and 2000s, a lot of the head coaches who were getting jobs were defensive minded guys.  Now, you’re finding these offenses that are high-scoring, explosive and fun to watch.  In turn, what you’re seeing, is a lot more offensive coaches becoming head coaches,” Spavital said.

Spavital, who in his young career has coached three NFL starting quarterbacks (Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith) and now serves as Johnny Manziel’s quarterback coach at Texas A&M, is quick to point out the role that the cyclical nature of college football plays in hiring decisions.  ”Everything in college football comes full-circle.  College football is in a time right now where offenses are very hard to stop.  It’s going to get to a point where defenses start learning to defend against those offenses, and those coaches will start having success on the hiring scene,” Spavital explained.

What’s notable about this year’s offensive-minded head coach hirings, is the coaches’ ties to the quarterback position.  Four of this year’s new BCS head coaches previously served as a quarterbacks coach.  Additionally, while never holding the title of quarterbacks coach, new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and new Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, as offensive coordinators at Auburn and Florida, respectively, led Cam Newton and Tim Tebow to Heisman Trophy winning seasons.  Along with providing keys to beat solid defenses, the lure of the Heisman Trophy may be one factor drawing athletics directors to hire offensive minded coaches.

College football fans know that offensive players are more likely to win the Heisman Trophy than defensive players.  In fact, only one true defensive player has ever been named a Heisman Trophy winner, Michigan’s Charles Woodson.  While offensive players have a clearer path to the podium at the Heisman Trophy announcement ceremony, quarterbacks seem to navigate the route most frequently.  Since 2000, only one non-quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy.  This streak by quarterbacks has not only led the winners to NFL careers, but has generated significant streams of revenue for their universities.  For instance, Baylor University pegged the economic impact of Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy in 2011 at $250 million.

Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks not only bring value to their institutions, but to the coaches who prepare them for competition on the field.  Along with Malzahn and Addazio, new Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury coached a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback (Manziel) prior to being named head coach this season.  In these men, athletics directors not only see the possibility of being able to outsmart defenses like Alabama’s, but also possibly cultivating a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who can create an indirect economic impact for the athletics department and university.

The tide of college football is changing and the change is being driven by offensive minded head coaches.  So long as college football exists, the trend-setting cycle of hiring either offensive minded or defensive minded coaches will remain, because as Spavital says, “You’re still putting eleven guys on the field, and at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do.”  For now, though, offensive minded coaches will be the winners of the cycle.  That is, until college football’s next coaching generation maps out the defenses to stop the explosive offenses being built.

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The NBA Rule That May Make Dwyane Wade’s Free Agency More Interesting Than LeBron’s

LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

With the 2013-14 NBA season in its infancy, it seems as though the biggest topic of conversation is whether LeBron James is going to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat two years prior to its expiration and sign a new mega deal.  As pundits weigh in and teams’ salary cap experts scramble to figure out how they might be able to get their hands on the greatest player of this basketball generation, Dwyane Wade’s potential free agency looms quietly in the background.

In 2010, Wade signed a six-year, $110.1 million contract with the Miami Heat.  The contract provides Wade with the option to opt out in 2014 and 2015.  The purpose of opting out for any player is to secure a more lucrative deal than the one he currently has.  However, for Wade, his decision to opt out should be guided largely by his age.  Similarly, teams seeking to sign Wade must also be cognizant of his age as his free agency approaches.

When it comes to Wade’s age, on the surface, the biggest question is how many playing years he has left.  However, below the surface and crouched in the 2011 NBA collective bargaining agreement lies another issue:  the Over 36 Rule.

The NBA’s Over 36 Rule exists to recognize the reality that even though NBA players may be signing contracts that will not expire until after they are 36-years-old, the likelihood of them playing until that age is slim.  The Over 36 Rule applies when a player signs, extends or renegotiates a contract that is four-years or more in length, and the player will be 36-years-old or older when at least one of those seasons begins.  If the Over 36 Rule applies to a player’s contract, a portion of his salary may be reallocated towards the calculation of the salary cap in other years.

When it comes to Wade, who turns 32-years-old in January 2014, the Over 36 Rule and its operation is something his representatives and teams alike must be aware of.  In a perfect negotiation setting, Wade’s agent will secure him a five-year contract taking him into the twilight of his career.  If Wade’s representation seeks a five-year contract, the point at which Wade opts out of his current contract plays a considerable role in how the Over 36 Rule impacts the salary cap of the team signing him.

The Over 36 Rule is concerned with the age of a player as of the date of the start of the NBA season, which the collective bargaining agreement defines as October 1.  If Wade opts out of his contract in 2014 and signs a five-year contract that summer, he will be the following ages at the start of the proceeding five NBA seasons:

NBA Season Dwyane Wade’s Age
2014-15 32
2015-16 33
2016-17 34
2017-18 35
2018-19 36

When it comes to the Over 36 Rule, for teams wanting to sign Wade to a five-year contract, it may be in their best interest if he opts out in 2014.  The reason for this, is that it is in this time frame that the Over 36 Rule arguably has the least impact on a team’s salary cap.  With respect to a five-year contract signed by Wade in 2014-15, the Over 36 Rule would operate in one of two ways.

First, assume that Wade unexpectedly retires before this new five-year contract expires.  If that is the case, the portion of his salary he is due for 2018-19, when he is 36-years-old, would be distributed in a pro rata basis and added to his team’s salary cap for the 2014-15 through 2017-18 seasons.  For teams like the Miami Heat who are expected to face salary cap crunches as they attempt to re-sign James, this could pose a problem.

 

In contrast, assume that Wade clears waivers and plays all five years under the new contract.  In that case, the Over 36 Rule would not impact his team’s salary cap until 2016-17.  Under the Over 36 Rule, at that point, the salaries remaining on his contract will be aggregated and attributed to the three years remaining on his contract.  In simpler terms, what this means is that if Wade is still playing in 2016-17, his salary in that year will be higher than what is negotiated because of the Over 36 Rule.  This again has salary cap implications for the team who signs him.  However, these implications aren’t as large as those discussed in the hypothetical above where Wade is no longer playing in the fifth year of his contract.

For the Miami Heat, it would arguably be in the team’s best interest salary cap wise if Wade does not opt out of his contract either in 2014 or 2015.  First, there is the obvious point that the team may be able to secure Wade for less money in 2016 when he is 34-years-old than they will be able to in 2014 when he is 32-years-old.  However, the less discussed issue is that it is in 2016 that the Over 36 Rule has the least impact on the Miami Heat’s salary cap.  One provision of the Over 36 Rule provides that if a 33-or-34-year-old enters into a five-year contract with his prior team that triggers the Over 36 Rule, only his fifth year salary is distributed pro rata.

Why is this a benefit to the Heat?  First, it’s important to understand Wade’s age at each point of a five-year contract entered into in 2016:

NBA Season Dwyane Wade’s Age
2016-17 34
2017-18 35
2018-19 36
2019-20 37
2020-21 38

Teams looking to sign Wade to a five-year contract in 2016 other than the Heat will be subject to the Over 36 Rule beginning in the fourth year of the contract.  This means that those teams would have to distribute the salary he is owed in years four and five of the contract on a pro rata basis in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.  The Heat, however, since they are Wade’s prior team, wouldn’t be subject to the Over 36 Rule until the fifth year of the contract.  This means that the Heat would feel less of a burden on their salary cap, as they would only have to reallocate one year’s salary over the course of four years, as opposed to two year’s worth of salaries over three years.

The big take-away here, is that just as in 2010, if Wade wants to remain with the Heat or move to another competitive team, he will likely have to compromise.  And while most pundits pinpoint that compromise being about salary or years on a contract, perhaps the biggest compromise Wade will make is what year he will opt out of his current contract.

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Fantasy Basketball Camps Provide Millionaire Businessmen The Opportunity To Live The Life Of College Basketball Players

On a sunny autumn day, the University of Miami Field House was buzzing with the sounds of basketballs dribbling and whistles blowing.  Inside, playersran the length of the court, as their coaches paced alongside it chiding them to compete harder.  Training tables ran the length of the room, ready to assist players should they tweak something while playing.  On this sunny autumn day, it wasn’t the 2013 ACC Men’s Basketball Champions, University of Miami, pacing the court under the guidance of head coach Jim Larrañaga.  Rather, it was a group of 35-year-old to 70-year-old men with net worth’s over $1 million seeking to live out the fantasy of being a college basketball player.

Founded in 1998 to provide summer sports camps for children and assist professional athletes in hosting camps, in 2012 Pro Camps entered the fantasy camp market.  Fantasy camp attendees are told they can “live their ultimate fantasy” at the five fantasy camps Pro Camps hosts:  the Bill Self Basketball Fantasy Experience at the University of Kansas, the John Calipari Fantasy Experience at the University of Kentucky, the Tom Crean Fantasy Basketball Experience at the Indiana University, the Jim Larrañaga Fantasy Basketball Experience at the University of Miami and the USA Basketball Fantasy Basketball Experience in Las Vegas.

At each experience, the camp’s adult participants are treated to a fantasy version of what being a student-athlete is like.  For starters, there aren’t any classroom activities.  Rather, there are hotel stays at places like the Ritz Carlton and dinners at steakhouses like Ruth’s Chris.  There are swag bags filled with items including t-shirts to jerseys from basketball’s biggest merchandisers.  There are team meetings, film review sessions and personal coaching opportunities by each school’s head coach and his staff.  No fantasy camp would be complete without behind-the-scenes access to each team’s locker rooms, training facilities and offices, with the ability to compete in the arena that each team calls home.

What the promotional material for each fantasy camp fails to advertise, though, is what each camper is the most willing to spend big dollars on to receive:  high-level basketball competition and camaraderie.  For these men who work high-stress jobs, those two factors justify the $2,995-to-$10,995 price tag Pro Camps charges for its fantasy basketball camps.  “Participants of our fantasy camps will tell you that the best thing about them are the friendships and relationships they build.  It’s not about the gear.  It’s not about the good food, hotels and events we provide them.  It’s about the relationships they build.  When they first started going, guys didn’t know each other and now they’re building relationships with them.  Guys are recruiting other guys to go to different camps with them,” Pro Camps’ chief operation officer, Andy Danner said.

The enjoyment the camp’s participants receive from participating in the camps has led to the creation of a businessman basketball counterculture of sorts.  Fantasy camp participants traverse the country throughout the year participating in Pro Camps’ fantasy camps and other fantasy camps organized by individual coaches or other entities, like Jim Boeheim’s at Syracuse or Mike Krzyzewski’s at Duke.  Many of the men have built basketball training facilities into their homes, with some adding facilities to their offices.  Most have personal trainers and some have shooting coaches.

Even after the camp ends, the fantasy lives on.  Throughout the fantasy camp “off-season,” they email each other talking smack and scouting to see who has improved the most away from camp.  One camper at the recent Jim Larrañaga Fantasy Basketball Experience who wished to remain anonymous for fear over how investors in his business may react to what he called his “$100,000-per-year basketball habit” noted,  “There’s a bunch of type-A personalities who are unbelievably successful here.  There are 50 millionaires, multimillionaires and more, who are competing at the highest level and they share a passion for basketball.  It’s an amazing experience to suspend reality and come into an environment, have coaches come and work with us, and come together with a common goal in this very temporary bubble of fantasy.  You can’t get this in other facets of life.”

Pro Camps notes that the market for fantasy basketball camps is niche and as such, growth must be slow, steady and intentional.  The number of men with net worth’s over $1 million limits the pool of participants from the outset.  Add to that the fact that not every man with that net worth wants to spend his money traveling to play basketball.  On top of that, realize that there are only a handful of coaches in America who could draw a large enough crowd committed to paying thousands-of-dollars to learn under them.  Quickly, one realizes the market for fantasy basketball camps is small.  “What’s unique about fantasy basketball camps, is we feel there’s only a certain number of camps we can do.  The camps have to be tied to very elite programs–the Camelots of college basketball,” Danner explained.

That fact hasn’t dissuaded Pro Camps, however, from entering the market.  In fact, the company is looking for ways to expand its fantasy camp experience, through the addition of other sports that may be more attractive to a wider audience, like golf and tennis.  If its fantasy basketball camps are any indicator, it’s likely that if Pro Camps makes the move, it’ll have golf courses and tennis courts filled with millionaire businessmen eager to live the life of their favorite golf and tennis stars.

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Texas Christian University’s Move To The Big 12 Brings More Money And Applicants To The University

The biggest story in college athletics over the last three years didn’t take place on the field, nor was it an NCAA investigation into a sensationalized scandal.  Rather, the biggest story in college athletics from 2010-13 revolved around the business of college sports.  Over the last three years, conference realignment not only reshaped the playing landscape of college athletics, but brought home the point that college sports is about more than winning.  Today, while winning serves its purpose, alignment with the right conference provides the added bonus of access to greater revenue streams and increased exposure.

One athletics program that traveled a tenuous route during conference realignment was Texas Christian University.  The story of how TCU ultimately landed in its current conference resting spot, the Big 12, is one punctuated by the athletics department seeking to achieve two goals through realignment:  Access to bowl game revenue and generation of more exposure.

Initially an independent athletics program, TCU joined the Southwest Conference in 1923.  There, it developed in-state rivalries with competitors including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor.  Those rivalries would come to an end, however, in 1995-96, when the four schools departed the Southwest Conference to join what would become the Big 12.  As the Southwest Conference met its fate, TCU found itself conference hopping for nearly twenty years, making stops in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mountain West Conference.

While each of those conferences provided TCU with a home, beginning in 1998, none provided TCU with one thing that matters the most monetarily in college football:  The opportunity to become an automatic qualifier for a BCS bowl game.  The BCS set-up provided six conferences with automatic bids to one of five BCS bowl games:  ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC.  Automatic qualification, in turn, guaranteed teams in those conferences the opportunity to compete for the big revenues distributed to participants, ranging most recently between $17-$18 million.

Teams who were not members of the automatic qualifier conferences ultimately succumbed to a free-for-all to gain a spot in a BCS bowl game.  In turn, that free-for-all oftentimes left many said teams on the sidelines when it came to BCS bowl game participation.  As such, these schools were not getting their hands on as much BCS revenue as their automatic qualifier conference member counterparts.  Thus, it’s no surprise that when the Big East came knocking with an invitation to join the conference in 2010, TCU jumped at the opportunity.

Under the offer from the Big East, it was expected that TCU would join the conference in all sports beginning in 2012.  However, one thing that TCU likely did not foresee when it entered into its agreement with the Big East, was that many of the conference’s members would be poached during the course of conference realignment.  With a strong roster of member institutions, the Big East arguably fell victim to the conference realignment carousel due to the fact that it was the only BCS automatic qualifier conference that did not have an exclusive contract with any BCS bowl.  Ultimately, the poaching of the Big East would leave the landscape of the conference looking much different–and less competitive–in 2012 than in 2010.

As the Big East continued to lose members, late in 2011 TCU received an offer it had been waiting for since 1995:  The opportunity to become a member of the Big 12.  TCU informed the Big East of its decision to not enter the conference, was hit with a lawsuit by the conference and ultimately joined the Big 12 in 2012.  “Joining the Big East was an access move for BCS purposes.  Getting into the Big 12 is where we always wanted to be.  We wanted to be playing regionally, but in 2010, that opportunity wasn’t there, because the Big 12 wasn’t pursuing new members.  When the second shift of conference realignment happened, though, the Big East was no longer the same–with schools like Syracuse and Pittsburgh announcing their departures.  Then, Missouri and Texas A&M announced their departures from the Big 12, and that opened up the opportunity for us to join,” said TCU’s athletics director, Chris Del Conte.

Since joining the Big 12, TCU has seen success beyond the football field.  Increased fan interest in the athletics department was sparked as a result of rivalries between former Southwest Conference members being renewed.  This spark in fan interest has caused season ticket sales for TCU’s football program to increase by 275-percent over the last five years.  This year, TCU sold nearly 33,000 season tickets for its football games.  In 2010, when TCU announced its move to the Big East, that number was 19,000.  In 2011 when it announced it would join the Big 12, the number jumped to 24,000.  In 2012, its first year of Big 12 membership, TCU sold 32,000 season tickets for its football program.

Del Conte argues that access to BCS bowl games is not only important from a revenue generation standpoint, but also because of the national exposure teams receive from competing in BCS bowls.  A Navigate Marketing study found that Stanford received $11 million worth of television exposure value from playing in last year’s Rose Bowl.  The exposure TCU received from participation in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and 2011 Rose Bowl generated interest from two important groups:  alumni and potential TCU students.

From an alumni standpoint, TCU used its appearance in back-to-back BCS bowl games to fund-raise for a $164 million renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadium, where TCU’s football team plays.  Funding for the stadium renovation was driven by 140 donors, six of whom donated $15 million.  Del Conte says that the donor’s gifts were not motivated by conference affiliation, but by the overall success of the university, which he largely attributes to the university’s chancellor, Dr. Victor J. Boschini, Jr.  “People were motivated to give, because they saw how successful TCU was becoming–not just in football, but also academically,” Del Conte noted.  Similarly, that motivation was likely the reason for TCU seeing its most successful fund-raising effort in the school’s history, which raised $434.1 million over the seven years leading up to May 31, 2012.

When it comes to potential TCU students, the exposure TCU has gleaned from its football program’s success is helping drive applications to the university.  Since 2009, freshman applications to TCU have increased by 155-percent.  The greatest number of applicants in the last five years came in 2012, the year TCU joined the Big 12.

While TCU’s applicant numbers are notable, perhaps what is more interesting is the number of out-of-state undergraduate students attending the institution.  In 2009, Texas residents made up 74.2-percent of TCU’s student body.  This year, that number has decreased by 16.2-percent, as Texas residents currently account for 58-percent of TCU’s student body.  Arizona, where TCU played the Fiesta Bowl in 2010, is sending 215-percent more students to the school in 2013 than it was in 2009.  California, where TCU played the Rose Bowl in 2011, is sending 358-percent more students to the school in 2013 than it was in 2009.

When it comes to the future of TCU, Del Conte is hopeful for continued success both on the field and in the classroom.  “Ten years ago, we were a really good institution.  Today, we are ranked 82nd in the country.  This has happened because our board of trustees and chancellor have transformed the university to be great both academically and athletically,” Del Conte remarked.

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Inside The Legal Fight To Change The Washington Redskins’ Name

A battle of public opinion is being waged with respect to whether the Washington Redskins should change their name.  Members of the Oneida Indian Nation are airing ads in strategic NFL markets asking that the Redskins abandon their team name, which the group and other Native American groups alleges amounts to a racist slur.  In a halftime monologue during the October 13 Sunday Night Football broadcast, Bob Costas referred to the team’s name as “an insult, a slur.”  Perhaps the biggest name to raise a stake in the battle, is President Barack Obama, who recently opined, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”

The problem, though, for Obama and those on his side of the debate, is that the owner of the Redskins, Daniel Snyder, is emphatic that he is not changing the name of his team.  Snyder arguably summed up his point best when he told USA Today earlier this year, “We will never change the name of the team.”  Snyder’s rationale for this lies in a myriad of factors.  Snyder and those who oppose the name change base their opposition largely on the history of the team’s name.  They point to this history as a sign of honor–and not disparagement–of Native Americans and the courageous nature that demarcates their history as a people.  From their perspective, it is notable that in 1933, when the Boston Braves were renamed the Redskins, the team’s head coach was a Native American.

While the trial of the court of public opinion will likely continue to play out over television as the NFL season continues, a quieter case is taking place within the legal system.  It is the outcome of this case which may play the biggest role in whether Snyder changes his team’s name.

Snyder purchased the Washington Redskins in 1999.  For a man who said he would never change the team’s name, an event that took place that same year could have caused enough of an economic burden to twist his hand into doing so.  In 1999, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled six trademark registrations held by the Redskins.  This decision meant that the rights and benefits associated with owning these trademark were no longer afforded to the team.  From a monetary perspective, this legal decision could have cost the Redskins potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.  Losing a trademark in place for over thirty years signals the loss of the goodwill developed since the trademarks’ creation in 1967, the subsequent loss of licensing deals created around those trademarks and finally, a loss of stature in the marketplace.  At the end of the day, those factors ultimately equate to the Redskins not only losing trademark protection, but losing money.  Big money.

What caused the Redskins’ trademarks to be canceled in 1999?  The cause was a case filed by a group of Native Americans, Harjo v. Pro Football, Inc.  That case argued that the trademarks held by the Redskins were disparaging, and as such, violated Section 2 of the Lanham Act (the body of law governing trademark protection in the United States).  The plaintiffs’ arguments in theHarjo case were largely similar to the arguments being raised today in the court of public opinion:  the use of the word “Redskin” in a team name amounts to using a racial slur as a team name.

Realizing the ramifications of losing trademark protection, the Redskins appealed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision in the Harjo case.  Through a series of appeals, a federal district court overturned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision.  The federal district court’s basis for doing this, was based in part upon a finding that the doctrine of laches barred the plaintiffs from bringing their claim.  Further appeals were made.  Ultimately, the Supreme Court denied to hear the case.  As such, at the end of the Harjocase, the Redskins maintained their trademark protection.  The Native Americans offended by the team’s use of a word that is one of the most disparaging used against their culture faced a new uphill legal battle to change that name.

Currently, a claim similar to that raised in the Harjo case is pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  This case, Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., has been pending since before the conclusion of the Harjo case.  Like theHarjo case, it argues that six of the Redskins’ trademarks should be cancelled, because they are disparaging.  This case was built utilizing strategy gleaned from the outcome of the Harjo case.  Yet, that strategy does not mean that theBlackhorse legal team faces a clear and easy path to successfully arguing for the cancellation of the Redskins’ trademarks.

The uphill battle faced by Native Americans wishing for the Redskins to change their team name was paved by the federal district court who overturned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision in Harjo.  First, the Harjodistrict court’s reliance upon the doctrine of laches arguably presents difficulties for the group.  Laches is an equitable legal defense, under which claims can be barred if a person waits too long to bring them.  In the Harjolitigation, the district court found that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred using laches, because the Redskins were awarded their first trademark in 1967.  TheHarjo plaintiffs, however, didn’t bring their case until 1992–some 25 years after the Redskins’ first trademark was approved.

The time clock for the doctrine of laches begins ticking when a plaintiff reaches the age of majority.  In the Harjo case, the youngest plaintiff was only one-year-old in 1967, when the Redskins obtained their first trademark.  However, on remand, the district court found that even this plaintiff’s case violated the doctrine of laches, since he waited eight years after reaching the age of majority to bring his case.

Seeing how the Harjo court ruled when it came to laches, the biggest difference between the the Harjo case and the Blackhorse case, is the age of the plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs in the Blackhorse case were between the ages of 18-and-24 when the case was filed.  It is expected that their attorneys will argue that the case this time around is not barred by laches, since the plaintiffs brought their case within six years of reaching the age of majority.

The question, though, is whether this legal maneuver is enough to make a court find in favor of the Blackhorse plaintiffs and cancel the Redskins’ trademarks?  Looking at the Harjo case, it does not appear so.  Rather, it is only the beginning of the battle.

The biggest legal hurdle that the Blackhorse plaintiffs face, is not their age.  Rather, it is showing that the Redskins’ trademarks are disparaging.  This hurdle will not be overcome by anything leaders of the Oneida Indian Nation, famous broadcasters or even the President of the United States says in 2013.  That is because the plaintiffs must prove that the trademarks were disparaging when they were granted; not whether they are considered disparaging today.

When it comes to showing that a trademark is disparaging,the plaintiffs must meet a two-part test:  (1) the likely meaning of the mark and (2) if that meaning refers to an identifiable group, that the meaning is disparaging to a substantial composite of that group.  Meeting the first part of this test is relatively simple from an evidence producing standpoint, as the the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board can only decipher the “likely meaning” of a trademark from dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference materials.  Thus, the Blackhorse plaintiffs will point to materials of this type from when each of the trademarks was granted to argue prong one of the two-part test.

Proving the second part of the two-part test, however, may prove to be more difficult for the Blackhorse plaintiffs.  The reason this is difficult, is that the plaintiffs must show that a substantial composite of Native Americans–not in 2013, but from 1967-1990 when the trademarks were granted–found the trademarks disparaging.  The question becomes, then, how do the plaintiffs go back in time and show that a sizable enough number (although not a majority) of the Native American population felt this way?

It is unclear whether the Blackhorse plaintiffs have the substantial evidence necessary to meet the burden of proving that the Redskins’ trademarks are disparaging.  This should come as no surprise, as the district court in the Harjocase found that those plaintiffs did not have enough substantial evidence to show that then that the Redskins’ trademarks were disparaging.  Unless the attorneys for the Blackhorse plaintiffs have unearthed new evidence demonstrating that the Redskins’ trademarks were considered disparaging when they were granted, it is unlikely that the plaintiffs will succeed in this regard.

The discussion above details the tough legal fight the Blackhorse plaintiffs face in removing a word they believe to be a slur from the name of an NFL team.  Given that, one may wonder why the Blackhorse plaintiffs nonetheless choose to go forward with their cause of action.  Perhaps it is because, even if they do not win in a court of law, they will slowly but surely win their case in the court of public opinion.

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A-Rod’s Legal Lineup

By:  Jonathan Gordon, Ruling Sports Contributor (Twitter:  @JonathanCGordon)

On Friday, it was announced that Alex Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, the Office of the Commissioner, and Bud Selig for, among other things, attempting to “destroy [his] reputation and career.” The full lawsuit can be found here. (For what it’s worth, this might be one of the more entertaining and colorful lawsuits you’ll ever read.)

[Update: Rodriguez also filed a lawsuit against the Yankees doctor and a hospital. That lawsuit was drafted by different lawyers than the ones representing him against Major League Baseball and Selig.]

As it appears in the suit, Rodriguez is being represented by a diverse and well-accomplished team of five lawyers. Combined, the team specializes in legal issues pertaining, but not limited, to: criminal law, prosecution, criminal defense, litigation, financial services, and sports law — all relevant and important issues in Rodriguez’s case. While Rodriguez may also be seeking advice from other lawyers and individuals, the following five lawyers drafted the contract and appear to be Rodriguez’s main representation.

Joseph Tacopina (Tacopina, Siegal, & Turano) – Perhaps the most well-known lawyer on the team, Tacopina is no stranger to the spotlight that comes with representing Rodriguez. Most recently with A-Rod’s drug suspension and appeal, Tacopina has spent a fair amount of time in the public enthusiastically defending Rodriguez and voicing his displeasure with Major League Baseball. Labeled as the “hottest young criminal defense lawyer” in New York, Tacopina has been quite successful as a litigator and defense attorney.

James McCarroll (Reed Smith) – McCarroll is Chairperson for Reed Smith’s Investment Management Group and also serves as a partner in the firm’s Financial Industry Group. While he deals mainly with hedge funds and investment banks, McCarroll also represents various high net worth individuals and public figures. McCarroll’s areas of practice also include employee benefits.

Casey Laffey (Reed Smith) – Also from Reed Smith, Laffey is an expert in litigation and resolutions. Specifically, he is a member of Reed Smith’s Commercial Litigation and Financial Services Litigation Departments. As listed on the firm’s website, Laffey’s areas of practice include: litigation and dispute resolution, commercial litigation and disputes, financial services litigation, securities litigation, and others.

Jordan Siev (Reed Smith) – Siev is the last of the partners from Reed Smith. Like Laffey and McCarroll, Siev specializes in financial and commercial litigation.

[Reed Smith was recently ranked 16th in Law360’s 2012 Global 20 Rankings.]

David Cornwell (Gordon & Rees) – Cornwell is a partner in the firm’s Sports, Media, and Entertainment office. Cornwell provides a unique perspective in that he once worked with and for a major commissioner. Cornwell began his career as an Assistant Legal Counsel in the NFL, where he represented former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Cornwell also went on to work with NFL Comissioner Paul Tagliabue on various issues.

While the MLB is sure to have an impressive team of lawyers on its side, Rodriguez appears to have an extremely qualified and successful team speaking for him on his behalf. Just as the lawsuit covers a broad range of issues, so too do Rodriguez’s lawyers.

When he steps to the plate, A-Rod will be going up with a big bat. Five, to be exact.

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Jonathan Gordon is a junior at the University of Notre Dame with plans of attending law school. The founder of Sports Analytics Blog, Jonathan invites you to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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