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Increase in court cases could impact NCAA image

Increase in court cases could impact NCAA image

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The NCAA will open its annual convention this week with a host of reform measures on the agenda, part of President Mark Emmert's push to address several years of high-profile scandals.

It may turn out that attorneys will have a lot of say in what the NCAA does in coming years - perhaps as much as any athletic director or school president: The NCAA is facing more than a half-dozen lawsuits in what could signal a new era of legal complications for the largest governing body in collegiate sports.

``It's a much more litigious period than we've seen in the past, and sports in general have become more litigious. Athletes are more willing to do it now, and that's something we haven't seen in the past,'' said Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute and a professor at Vermont Law School. ``I think the NCAA will be dealing with litigation for years to come.''

The list runs from the mundane, a wrongful termination suit stemming from an investigation into Arizona State's baseball program, to the recent headline-grabbing lawsuit from the Pennsylvania governor over the $60 million in sanctions against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But there are also intriguing cases involving brain injuries, scholarship limits and a case in which Ed O'Bannon and other former players accuse the NCAA of operating a monopoly because they are required to sign away their commercial rights to play collegiate sports.

Going to court is nothing new for the NCAA.

There have been huge wins such as the Supreme Court ruling that reinforced the NCAA's right to discipline its member schools, throwing out a decade-old injunction allowing ex-UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian to continue coaching, and a federal appeals court win when an SMU alum alleged the NCAA violated antitrust laws by imposing the ``death penalty'' on the Mustangs' football program.

There have also been costly losses. The NCAA agreed to pay $54.5 million to settle a case challenging the ``restricted earnings'' rule for non-football coaches and in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA was improperly restricting the ability of its member schools to negotiate television rights.

The impact of the latest round of litigation remains to be seen.

Two weeks ago, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett filed suit and said the NCAA overstepped its authority when Emmert punished Penn State for Sandusky's child sex-assault crimes by imposing a four-year postseason ban on the football team and the unprecedented $60 million fine on the school.

There are questions about whether a governor has the statutory authority to file suit, but some familiar with the NCAA workings believe the governing body could be at risk because Penn State did not go through the normal disciplinary procedures, including a hearing in front of the committee on infractions.

``The problem I had with it is there is a procedure set up within the NCAA structure to handle violations of NCAA rules. There was nothing set up for the president to decide this on his own,'' said University of Oklahoma law professor David Swank, a former infractions committee chairman. ``There was some authority to impose monetary penalties, but generally it was related to money from TV or bowl games. I'm unaware of any time the committee on infractions imposed monetary penalties like they did in the Penn State case.''

Still, the Pennsylvania case may not prove the most costly to the NCAA.

There is at least one case from former college athletes holding the NCAA accountable for alleged brain injuries suffered during play. And there is the O'Bannon case, which alleges antitrust violations against the NCAA for licensing their images to third parties, including video game manufacturers.

``It could be disastrous for the NCAA,'' McCann said. ``I don't think this is going to happen but in theory it could be billions of dollars.''

Emmert and the NCAA are not backing down.

``It goes without saying that we are a very litigious society and people turn to the court system to address the grievances they do have. We do that all the time, and I don't expect that to diminish any going forward,'' Emmert said. ``I don't put any particular meaning on the level of suits we have right now. We feel the actions are defensible and will continue to fight them.''

That won't stop Emmert from pushing new reforms.

Since the summer of 2011, the NCAA board of directors has approved tougher academic standards for eligibility, given conferences the choice of allowing student-athletes to collect up to $2,000 from the school toward the full cost of enrollment and four-year scholarships instead of one-year scholarships, as well as a new penalty structure. The stipend has since been after a sufficient number of schools signed on to an override measure, though Emmert has repeatedly supported bringing it back.

The next big move could come Saturday when the board is expected to approve a sweeping set of changes that will include eliminating rules about how coaches communicate with recruits, how often they communicate with recruits, and allow college and high school players to accept money for travel expenses and prize money at non-scholastic events.

Some also want the NCAA to step into the turbulent whirlwind of conference realignment, something Emmert has repeatedly avoided for legal reasons.

If the NCAA doesn't get involved, other changes could be coming.

``That could very well happen and I think that's something that has to be hashed out legislatively within the NCAA,'' said Matt Mitten, a law professor and director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University in Milwaukee. ``I could foresee another division within the NCAA. It looks like we might be moving toward four or five new superconferences and maybe the membership decides these schools on relative equal footing on economic terms that they create another division.''

Will it lead to more time in court?

Emmert is ready if that happens, and the legal experts expect the case load to increase, not decrease, over the next few years.

``I think that's a pretty good characterization but 2013 could as well,'' McCann said when asked whether he would call 2012 the NCAA's year of litigation. ``With something like law, I don't think it's really one year because it takes years to resolve.''

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One crazy stat that connects Dwayne Haskins with Cam Newton, but also Mark Sanchez

One crazy stat that connects Dwayne Haskins with Cam Newton, but also Mark Sanchez

The Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. While his record at Ohio State was impressive, Haskins didn't log many starts. 

Washington head coach Jay Gruden talked about Haskins back in March during the league meetings, before the Burgundy and Gold drafted the quarterback, and said that because he played just one year in college he would need significant time to learn the NFL game. 

"You would like a guy to play more than a year to see how he’s developed over the years. Haskins has a unique skillset. He’s big, strong and can really throw it," Gruden said. Then, "Is he going to be ready for the first year?"

After OTAs and minicamp, it's obvious Haskins has all the talent needed to play quarterback in the NFL. He's made touch throws and he's rifled balls into tight windows. At the same time, he seemed confused in spots about play calls and struggled with the speed of the pass rush. 

All of that is normal for a player with just 14 starts. But it's that number, the one year of starting experience in college, that makes one statistic stand out about Haskins. 

That's some serious company, both good, bad and ugly. 

As a rookie in 2011, Cam Newton went 6-10 with 35 total TDs and 17 interceptions, not to mention a Rookie of the Year trophy. His running prowess made up for average numbers in the pass game. The more important comparison for Redskins fans is that Newton eventually developed into an NFL MVP and got the Panthers to the Super Bowl. 

For Mark Sanchez, the rookie numbers and the career comparison aren't as kind. Sanchez threw 12 TDs and 20 INTs in 15 games as a rookie, though he was at the helm as the Jets got to two straight AFC title games. Still, for his career, Sanchez threw more INTs than TDs and could not keep a starting job after his rookie contract. 

Trubisky is a different deal. He's only started 26 games since being the second overall pick in the 2017 draft with a record of 15-11. He's thrown 31 touchdowns against 19 interceptions, and run for another five scores. It's hard to describe Trubisky's game. At times he's terribly inaccurate, but in other spots, he looks like a future Pro Bowler. 

Newton is the sure thing, Sanchez is the poor outcome. Trubisky is still to be determined. 

For Haskins, it's not good company or bad company. With only 14 starts at Ohio State before the Redskins drafted Haskins, it's just the company he's in.

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Tomas Satoransky set to enter unpredictable free agent market for point guards

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Tomas Satoransky set to enter unpredictable free agent market for point guards

Of the Wizards' players set to hit free agency on June 30, one who has a good chance to return is point guard Tomas Satoransky. He and center Thomas Bryant are atop the team's priority list with Bobby Portis likely too expensive and Jabari Parker set to enter the market unrestricted.

Satoransky will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Wizards can match any offers made by other teams. And in talking to members of the Wizards' coaching staff and front office, they speak of Satoransky like he is part of their future.

Still, nothing can be assumed and especially in a year in which many teams have money to spend. As Kevin O'Connor of the Ringer noted this week, there is more cap room available this summer than the previous two combined. That could lead to 2016-level contracts where role players get paid like starters and average starters get paid like stars.

What will make Satoransky's market interesting, though, is the fact there are some much bigger names available at his position. At point guard, teams with the most money can go after All-Stars like Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and D'Angelo Russell. There is then a robust second tier that includes Malcolm Brogdon, Terry Rozier and Ricky Rubio. Then you have Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison and Rajon Rondo.

It is a great year to be a free agent, but maybe not the best year to be a free agent point guard. The position class is absolutely loaded.

Satoransky, though, will still draw plenty of interest and among the teams expected to check in on him are the Mavericks, Pacers, Magic and Celtics, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Celtics have already been tied to Satoransky by Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. But they also have their sights set on some of the bigger fish at point guard with rumors linking them to Walker, in particular.

The Utah Jazz were also set to pursue Satoransky, but their trade for Mike Conley Jr. has taken them off the list. The Phoenix Suns could also emerge as a suitor, though they are being linked to higher profile free agents at this point.

Both the Wizards and Satoransky expressed interest in a contract extension midway through the 2018-19 season, as NBC Sports Washington reported, but those talks didn't get much further. The Wizards ended up putting a lot of things on hold once they drifted out of the playoff race and ultimately fired team president Ernie Grunfeld.

With senior vice president Tommy Sheppard serving in the interim, though, Satoransky has a big proponent calling the shots in the Wizards front office. Sheppard scouted Satoransky before the Wizards drafted him and was key in convincing him to leave Europe for the NBA.

Satoransky likes playing in Washington and recognizes an opportunity at point guard with John Wall set to miss most of next season due to Achilles surgery. But he also recognizes this as a chance to earn the biggest payday of his career.

How much money Satoransky will ultimately receive is hard to predict. Those in his camp are apprehensive to throw numbers out there because even they aren't sure.

One potential comparison could be Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who makes just over $9 million per year. Though VanVleet is arguably better, Satoransky is hitting the market with more money to go around. 

Many have tried to project Satoransky's market in the past few months. Soon we will find out just how valuable he is.

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