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Capabilities / Collegiate Athletics

Collegiate Athletics

Experienced guidance for the complex world of college athletics.

College athletics today play a central role in an institution’s identity, public profile, prestige, and student experience—making the management of the legal aspects of college sports a matter of great institutional importance. At the same time, these legal aspects are undergoing a period of transition. The current National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) self-regulatory model is under significant stress, with institutional, state, and federal authorities considering changes in the near future. Potential shifts include the scope and role of self-regulation as well as the definition of amateurism.

Led by a former NCAA investigator, our team of athletics-focused and NCAA compliance attorneys helps colleges and universities navigate this sea of ever-changing regulations, carefully tracking potential rule changes and advising clients on how the current status of the rules applies to their policies. In addition to general college sports law advice and NCAA regulatory counsel, we offer comprehensive counsel on Name, Image, and Likeness matters and NIL collectives; transfer portal questions; culture and climate reviews and compliance assessments; advice on vendor, gameday, and coaches’ contracts; independent investigations on issues related to coaches conduct and student-athlete well-being; and representation during NCAA enforcement investigations and alleged infractions cases. While our primary focus is NCAA legal counsel, we are also experienced with the NJCAA, NAIA, and other similar associations. Alongside our work with schools, we assist college athletes with a variety of issues including potential infractions, eligibility, sponsorship agreements, and NIL. We also work with business and other entities on athletics issues like the best manner with which to engage in NIL agreements with athletes.

We bring diverse perspectives to these legal and regulatory issues: all of our college athletics attorneys have worked at the NCAA as well as in the compliance offices of Division I schools, and we now represent a variety of educational institutions. We’ve seen NCAA rules in action within the association, on campuses, and through the eyes of our clients, giving us a 360-view and an uncommon diversity of thought. We also practice in the midst of a broader Higher Education team of 40+ attorneys who serve more than 250 colleges and universities in a wide array of matters. Unlike many standalone sports law teams, we have immediate access to a deep bench of education-focused attorneys with centuries of collective education-specific experience. Our colleagues include former Department of Education attorneys, as well as lawyers who focus their practice on Title IX and who are well prepared to handle sensitive campus matters that also arise in athletics. The broader Husch Blackwell team draws not only on NCAA experience, but also DOE and DOJ experience.

Our services include:

Name, Image, and Likeness

Since the 2021 Alston ruling, our team has worked with a variety of schools to assist with the implementation of NIL policies on their campuses and navigation of the variety of legal, regulatory, and policy issues associated with NIL. We have represented both individuals and institutions in nearly every aspect of NIL, counseled and educated colleges and universities, counseled student-athletes and business entities with respect to NIL agreements and compliance with NCAA rules, and advised NIL collectives on entity formation and involvement with student-athletes and institutions.

Student-athlete well-being, coaches' conduct, and sports program review

All of our NCAA-focused attorneys are former student-athletes and former athletics administrators who have also worked at the NCAA National Office. Our combined knowledge of athletics department culture and lifelong involvement in sports perfectly positions us to ask the right questions, understand the student-athlete and coach relationship, and make meaningful recommendations for change based on internationally recognized sporting standards.

NCAA enforcement investigations and infractions

We draw on our NCAA, campus, and private practice experience to partner with clients and help them avoid serious sanctions when possible. When infractions or investigations have occurred, we have successfully represented multiple institutions and student-athletes in NCAA investigations, as well as in information inquiries in all areas of NCAA compliance, including issues related to institutional control.

NCAA compliance and athletic program reviews and audits

With decades of experience as Division I athletics administrators, NCAA staff, and outside counsel, our team combines practical understanding of NCAA compliance with awareness of the changing legal and regulatory landscape in college athletics to assist schools in mitigating risk and further developing their compliance programs.

NCAA student-athlete waivers and eligibility matters

We collaborate with colleges and universities to present the best cases for student-athletes in all types of situations related to student-athletes’ eligibility. Our team includes a former NCAA legislative staff member who reviewed hundreds of requests for relief from NCAA rules, as well as a former member of an NCAA committee for legislative review who decided appeals.

Title IX gender equity in athletics

Our knowledge of athletics programs meshes with the experience of our colleagues who have worked at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on Title IX matters to provide customized reviews, equity plans, and recommendations regarding compliance with Title IX equity in athletics requirements.

Legal Updates | June 22, 2021
NCAA v. Alston: Five Key Takeaways
White Papers | March 2021
2021 NCAA Compliance Report: The Changing Context of College Athletics

How to think about the coming year and the issues that will drive the conversation around college sports.

Webinar | February 29, 2024
Athletics on an Axis
Speaking Engagements | June 5, 2023
Speaker, "Title IX and Athletics," MIAA Summer Meetings
Webinar | January 27, 2022
Issues in Higher Education | Navigating the Changing NCAA and Legal Landscape of College Athletics

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

Webinar | June 30, 2021
Issues in Higher Education | The New Frontier of College Athlete Name, Image and Likeness

Issues in Higher Education Webinar Series

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