The NCAA: Taking Interest in Dollars But Not Safety
By Zac Candelaria
Just like that, another year has passed us by and the sports industry keeps churning. Within the last month, there have been many controversies in the sports world that have legal implications and thus provide an opportunity to analyze potential legal remedies. In my last series of posts, I focused exclusively on the issue of legalized sports gambling. In this new year, I will be expanding my content and discussing varying legal matters on a weekly basis.
A prevalent problem in amateur athletics today is the lack of understanding with regards to athletes and their limitations. The NCAA’s status as a multi-billion-dollar business has garnered praise from some and criticism from others. Many schools across the country reap the benefits of powerhouse varsity programs, but the cost to some collegiate athletes comes from being stretched thin and forced to perform at the highest level.
Recently, former Oregon Ducks football player, Doug Brenner, decided to sue his former football coach, Willie Taggart, former strength coach, Irele Oderinde, and the NCAA for negligence stemming from injuries sustained in January 2017. Brenner believes that his injuries, which include rhabdomyolysis, stem from uncompromising offseason workouts. He is seeking $11.5 million in damages and states his claim of negligence on the part of his coaches and the NCAA for failing to regulate these strenuous practice conditions that subsequently caused his severe injuries.
Due to the fact that technology has increased our access to all sports, the NCAA has drastically increased its revenue from major sporting events. It has continuously found ways to grow its business and control a large market share of televised sports. Despite this, some people believe that the business has become too demanding of its athletes, who should be focusing on the development of their individual growth as students first, followed by their athletic growth. Willie Taggart is facing a major lawsuit after he stepped in as the new coach for the Ducks. He faces the repercussions of forcing football players to participate in severe, military-like training, which caused the hospitalization of several players. So what effect will this have on the NCAA?
In terms of regulation and compliance, I believe the NCAA has a very big issue on their hands. It is important to protect players and understand that life is more valuable than a game. Lawsuits arising from severe workouts that threaten the health of collegiate athletes serve to shine a negative light on the organization. Not only is the NCAA dealing with this matter, but the University of Oregon may potentially face issues due to negligent hiring. Furthermore, based on the allegations stemming from multiple players, Willie Taggart faces another lawsuit. Following Brenner’s suit, a second Oregon player sued the school, Taggart, and the NCAA. It seems like the allegations have some validity based on the sheer number of athletes that were hospitalized following the rigorous workouts led by Willie Taggart.
Finally, the NCAA is one of the largest sports organizations in the world. Between basketball and football, the amount of televised action and revenue generated is astronomical. The compliance and regulatory personnel for the NCAA face a major issue because the question for many has always been how much the company cares about its student athletes. So many people have been frustrated, stating that the NCAA is only focused on the dollar signs. These implications will force the NCAA to make pivotal changes to ensure the safety of its athletes across the country.
References:  Crepea, James, Former Oregon Ducks football player Doug Brenner suing UO, Willie Taggart, NCAA for $11.5 million, The Oregonian (Jan. 10, 2019), https://www.oregonlive.com/ducks/2019/01/former-oregon-ducks-football-player-doug-brenner-suing-uo-willie-taggart-ncaa-for-115-million.html.  Id.  Id.  Dinich, Heather, Lawsuit seeks $11.5 million from NCAA, Oregon, ex-coach over workout-caused injuries, ESPN (Jan. 9, 2019), http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/25722383/lawsuit-seeks-115-million-ncaa-oregon-ducks-willie-taggart-workout-caused-injuries.  Amaranthus, Bri, Doug Brenner and his Rhabdomyolysis: Why he’s suing Willie Taggart and the University of Oregon, NBC (Jan. 14, 2019), https://www.nbcsports.com/northwest/oregon-ducks/doug-brenner-and-his-rhabdomyolysis-why-hes-suing-willie-taggart-and-university-oregon.  Id.  Rollins, Khadrice, Former Oregon Player Doug Brenner Suing School. Willie Taggart, NCAA for $11.5 Million, Sports Illustrated (Jan. 9, 2019), https://www.si.com/college-football/2019/01/09/doug-brenner-oregon-willie-taggart-irele-oderinde-ncaa-lawsuit.
*Zac Candelaria is a first year student at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law and a staff writer for the Sports Law Society Blog.