jossey-bass

Stay current with College Athletics and the Law

  • Proactive strategies and lawsuit summaries to ensure NCAA compliance
  • Advice how to inspire student-athletes to be campus role models
  • Best practices to comply with Title IX regulations
  • Practical tips on forging coach contracts that protect your institution
Use discount code CATLW5 and SAVE 20%! SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Other Products of Interest

Student Affairs Today
is part of the Jossey-Bass higher education newsletter series. It highlights best practices in helping students fulfill their potential, plus keeps readers informated of critical legal issues. It is available in print, online and as a PDF delivery. Read More
Campus Security Report
is part of the Jossey-Bass higher education newsletter series. It offers practical advice on how to create a safe campus environment, summarizes the latest lawsuit rulings related to campus security, and offers tools to solve day-to-day risk factors. It is available in print, online and as a PDF delivery. Read More
Student-Athlete Conduct
3/25/2016 12:00 AM

ST. PETERSBURG BEACH, FLA. — Student-athletes experience isolation, learning disabilities and time-management issues at higher levels than the general student population. Some student-athletes also face additional challenges, such as being first-generation college students, lacking academic preparation, and being involved in misconduct.

ST. PETERSBURG BEACH, FLA. — Student-athletes experience isolation, learning disabilities and time-management issues at higher levels than the general student population. Some student-athletes also face additional challenges, such as being first-generation college students, lacking academic preparation, and being involved in misconduct.

Meanwhile, administrators face challenges helping student-athletes build campus connections beyond athletics as well as scheduling programming about conduct and other important issues.

That’s according to Derek Doughty, case manager, student services and athletics; and Patricia Cardoso, associate dean of students for student conduct and compliance, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They spoke at the annual conference for the Association for Student Conduct Administration.

To promote help-seeking and healthy behavior among student-athletes and decrease recidivism in the conduct system, the university’s student affairs unit and athletics department partnered to create and fund a case manager position to coordinate campus initiatives addressing resources, services and programming for student-athletes.

If you’d like to develop a case manager position for student-athletes at your school, then follow these strategies recommended by Doughty and Cardoso:

  • Identify student-athletes’ needs. Use campus/department climate surveys and your own experiences and observations. Find out if student-athletes feel isolated, lack awareness of campus services/resources, or fear that seeking help would lose their spot on the team. Student-athletes often need help with campus connections, learning disabilities, time management, post-athletic career guidance, mentorship and life skills.
  • Ensure the case manager’s visibility, approachability. Choose someone who already has — or can easily build — a good rapport with student-athletes. It helps if the case manager has an athletics background and dresses to look like “one of them” (not in an intimidating suit); attends games, practices, workouts and team meetings; and has an office in the athletics department.
  • Clearly identify duties. Case managers should coordinate services, outreach and training sessions (Title IX, active bystander, healthy relationships, etc.), and ensure student-athletes get release time to access services. For example, case managers could ask financial aid to explain processes to student-athletes so they can learn how to handle such things themselves. Case managers should explain their expectations, and their role as a private, not confidential, resource, available to deploy services for them as soon as possible. Student-athletes are encouraged to meet with case managers as soon as they’re notified of conduct violations, not wait until they’re found responsible. And case managers can coordinate how to keep scholarships and handle appeals, etc.
  • Encourage participation and follow-up. Cardoso found that student-athletes who received sanctions in absentia were more likely to repeat the misconduct. When student-athletes are involved in misconduct, ask coaches to encourage student-athletes to attend meetings and hearings in person, instead of just receiving their sanctions via letter. If student-athletes don’t respond to emails from conduct officers, call their coach and ask the coach to tell the student-athlete to come to a meeting right away. In addition, ask coaches and ADs to send you their cut updates, so you can send outreach letters to those students who have been cut from the team to let them know you’re still there for them.
  • Collaborate to prevent misconduct. When high-profile student-athletes faced suspensions and housing removals for repeated conduct violations, tension built between conduct officers and coaches. So Cardoso invited athletics to collaborate to prevent student-athletes from engaging in misconduct in the first place. Develop a student-athlete handbook so student-athletes and coaches understand behavior expectations and the impact of misconduct on their college experience. Provide data to athletics department leadership so they’re aware of misconduct among student-athletes and can use that data to inform educational outreach.
  • Address negative images/gossip about unfair/special treatment. Find out if some coaches inconsistently enforce conduct codes and sanctions. Are some student-athletes suspended for minor misconduct while others stay on after committing serious misconduct? Encourage consistent enforcement. Consider merging individual team rules into one document outlining behavior expectations and reporting obligations of student-athletes and coaches. Have case managers report to student affairs, not athletics. Clearly communicate to the campus community that athletics doesn’t handle conduct for student-athletes and that the same services are available for student-athletes as for the general student population.
  • Establish a student-athlete care team. Include representatives from academic support services and counseling, athletic trainers, and the case manager. Meet weekly to discuss students facing impediments to success on and off the field.
  • Establish a student-athlete enrichment group. Include athletic trainers, the senior women’s advocate, the compliance director, a faculty athletics representative, the academic support services director, and the case manager. Use a tracking database. Meet twice a month to discuss departmental trends related to conduct and academic performance to inform programmatic interventions. If certain issues occur with a particular student-athlete or team, meet with the individual student-athlete, or require that team to attend educational programs on healthy relationships, violence prevention, decision-making, drugs or alcohol.
  • Promote services, resources on a regular basis. To reach student-athletes where they are, UMass Amherst runs educational programming on the big-screen, high-definition TVs in the athletics department. Student-athletes also receive a weekly “Minuteman E-blast,” containing information about upcoming games, and “Mental Fit Tips” and “Healthy Behaviors Tips.” The E-blasts are designed to fit on smartphone screens because students open emails on their phones more often than on computers. At new-student orientation, staff members promote the UMass Athletics Resource, which contains helpful resources for student-athletes. Student-athletes also receive luggage tags, which list resources for various issues they might face while they’re traveling for athletics purposes.

For more information, you may contact Patricia Cardoso at pcardoso@umass.edu or Derek Doughty at ddoughty@umass.edu.

Liability
2/29/2016 12:00 AM

Collegiate sports camps continue to grow and provide a unique revenue stream and recruiting platform that are vital to collegiate teams’ success. But with these opportunities also come risks.

Collegiate sports camps continue to grow and provide a unique revenue stream and recruiting platform that are vital to collegiate teams’ success. But with these opportunities also come risks.

Camper injuries rank as the primary risk at sports camps. Such injuries range from minor scrapes to lacerations, torn muscles and broken limbs. There’s also a risk of catastrophic injuries (e.g., head, neck and spine) that could permanently disable a young student-athlete.

In my experience, coaches genuinely want campers to return home in the same condition in which they arrived, albeit tired and happy. Many of these same coaches, however, consider camp injuries to be an inherent and unavoidable risk of sports participation. Coaches’ experience with their collegiate student-athletes would support their perspective that the risk of many sports injuries can’t be eliminated.

What, then, can a prudent coach do to manage the risks of camper injuries?

Sports pundits frequently proclaim that the best defense is a good offense. So the best advice I can offer a coach or athletics director is to be proactive. In other words, it’s better to be on your toes than back on your heels.

Before examining risk-management measures that a coach could implement, let’s consider a common form of risk protection that camps generally rely upon — the waiver of liability. While the text of any waiver document may vary slightly, all waivers have the common goal of eliminating, or at least minimizing, financial liability.

The months leading up to the start of summer camps provide coaches and athletics administrators with ample time to carefully examine the risks created by their camps’ operations. This examination should focus on the key components of each camp — activities, participants, premises and staff.

  • Activities: Even though coaches might operate camps in their same sport, camp activities can still vary widely. Some coaches may emphasize a technique through drills done at half-speed while others may use simulated live action to teach the same technique. It’s ideal to achieve a balance that limits risk of injury while still delivering a high-quality, instructional experience.
    • Recommendation: Coaches should consider disclosing the nature and intensity of camp activities in the camp brochure and other marketing channels (e.g., camp website). This should allow campers and their parents to determine whether the camp fits their needs.
  • Participants: When programming a camp’s activities, consider such key factors as the age, athletic skill and maturity of each camper. Younger campers are more dependent on adults to keep them safe. And while older campers generally require less supervision, their physical maturity presents its own challenges. Camp staff must closely monitor drills, scrimmages and other camp activities when contact is expected or likely. Strict enforcement of all established permissible contact rules is crucial to maintaining a safe learning environment.
    • Recommendation: For camps serving participants younger than 10, I recommend a staff-to-camper ratio of 1 to 8. This allows for closer supervision of campers during activities and, importantly, during transitions from one area or activity to another.
  • Premises: A camp’s activities should take place on the same surface (or substantially similar) of the respective sport. Given the demand for facilities during the summer camp season, however, coaches must be more flexible about the space used than they would for their teams’ activities. For example, a soccer coach might run a part of her camp in the outfield of the athletics department’s baseball stadium. Because outfield walls, dugouts, pitcher’s mounds, and even dirt infields aren’t normally part of a soccer field, they may create unexpected hazards for campers who are accustomed to playing soccer on a full-sized, flat, wide-open soccer field.
    • Recommendation: Prior to the start of camp, coaches should inspect each facility for hazards. This inspection should be repeated daily. At the beginning of camp, coaches should review the layout of facilities with campers and camp staff, pointing out any unique features and any off-limits areas.
  • Staff: Camp staff generally perform two important functions as instructor and supervisor. When it comes to reducing the risk of injury, camp staff must ensure campers learn and practice new skills in the correct manner. Staff should also warn campers about any risk of injury if a skill isn’t done properly.
    • Recommendation: Serious injuries have occurred at camps when campers wander into drills or stand too close to other action. This risk is heightened when a large number of campers working on different drills are all in a small area. Camp staff should arrange drills so there’s an adequate buffer between activities.

In addition, the emergence of satellite camps as a recruiting strategy may require legal counsel to create different forms of waiver documents that are enforceable in the respective jurisdictions in which the camp will operate.

Protecting campers from the pain and disruption of an injury should be enough motivation for coaches to proactively examine camp risks. A failure to take this proactive step, however, will not only put a camper at risk, but it can also harm the reputation of the coach, athletics department and school, while also negatively impacting their finances.

Liability
1/29/2016 12:00 AM

Crime and accidents impact significantly higher percentages of student-athletes than the general student population, according to recent statistics.

And that’s not counting the times your student-athletes travel to athletic competitions outside of the United States.

So you can only imagine how safety issues can be compounded during student-athletes’ international travel, when decreased supervision, unfamiliar surroundings, language barriers and cultural differences are thrown into the mix.

Crime and accidents impact significantly higher percentages of student-athletes than the general student population, according to recent statistics.

And that’s not counting the times your student-athletes travel to athletic competitions outside of the United States.

So you can only imagine how safety issues can be compounded during student-athletes’ international travel, when decreased supervision, unfamiliar surroundings, language barriers and cultural differences are thrown into the mix.

But athletics administrators can mitigate those risks and liabilities and help ensure a safer traveling experience for their student-athletes, according to Jim Hutton, chief security officer at On Call International, a travel risk management company.

Failure to implement a proactive approach to travel safety could endanger your student-athletes and increase the risk of damaging your school’s and department’s brand and reputation in the eyes of your stakeholders, Hutton said. And that could hurt recruiting opportunities, or cause boosters, sponsors or donors to back out due to bad press or concerns about potential liability, he said.

It can be difficult to hold student-athletes’ attention during advance preparation and education, which can also be time-consuming and expensive, Hutton said. But that investment can help you avoid a crisis, which would become even more complex and time-consuming, he said.

And, if a crisis does occur, evidence of your pre-emptive, proactive work will lessen your liability, he said. “If you can demonstrate due diligence, you’re going to be in a better position to address any concerns,” he said.

Hutton highlighted 10 key steps you can take to improve international travel safety for your student-athletes:

  1. Educate student-athletes about the host country’s culture. Use online or in-person training to review language, food, alcohol/drug laws/expectations, appropriate versus inappropriate gestures, and issues of race, sex and gender. Sensitize student-athletes to cultural and political differences. “Nationalism can certainly creep in. Lack of experience can creep in. There can be intentional or accidental cultural rubs,” Hutton warned. That’s why you need to prepare student-athletes for how to prevent and respond to cultural misunderstandings, as well as assaults and sexual abuse. Educate student-athletes about the gender roles in the host country. For example, female student-athletes might find themselves on the receiving end of unwanted attention in other countries where residents or authorities might look the other way or even treat such behavior as acceptable. Arm student-athletes with strategies to de-escalate such situations, whether by making a quick phone call to a predesignated emergency contact or leaving the area. Also consider prearranging a partnership with a local host — an individual (perhaps a bilingual student) who lives in that country who speaks that language, understands that culture, and can help de-escalate problem situations. “Local knowledge is best,” Hutton said. You can find local hosts through destination management companies or transportation/insurance companies. Or, at a bare minimum, bring along someone from the United States who understands that country’s culture and language.
  2. If you have international students on your team, prepare coaches, staff and student-athletes for potential issues. For example, a female student-athlete from a particular culture might need permission from her husband or other family before traveling with your team. Or, international student-athletes on your team might encounter harassment or racism when traveling to some countries.
  3. Plan for student-athletes’ health needs. You have a vested interest in student-athletes’ health and nutrition. So ensure they receive any necessary inoculations and will have proper food and supplements available. Ensure they’re carrying legal, original prescriptions in case they need to show them to authorities. For student-athletes with chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, ensure they have medical clearance, necessary medications, and paper or electronic medical records. Plan where student-athletes will go if they need a specialist or a hospital with a burn unit or trauma center, especially in case of head and neck injuries, but even for sprains and strains. Have a plan for medical evacuations.
  4. Ensure coaches, staff and others have crisis management training. “Sometimes it’s hard to make it better, but you can certainly make it worse if you make poor decisions,” Hutton said. Know if your host country is prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, or air quality problems, and have crisis management plans in place for each situation, he said. In advance, find out the answers to these questions: “Does the management of the traveling partner have some background in crisis management and do they have a clear communication system? Does everyone know how to get help when they need it?”
  5. Provide supervision, communication plans. Have enough staff travel with the team to provide adequate supervision. Ensure student-athletes and staff know how to reach each other and where to report accidents, injuries, crimes, etc. Identify one main contact person for emergencies. Establish a system for sending blast texts/emails to everyone. Consider arranging for a security manager, agent or guards to provide an added layer of protection.
  6. Research airlines and hotels. Find out their safety records and fire prevention/response plans. Ask if hotels provide escorts to parking lots. If traveling by boat, hire someone to inspect it for adequate safety equipment. Remember that other countries don’t have the same standards, requirements or laws. Access a third-party provider to make sure vehicles and drivers are safe and sober.
  7. Look into the safety of excursions. “A lot of the accidents and injuries occur during free time,” Hutton said. Driving and swimming are the most common areas of injury, especially when alcohol is involved, he said. “Equip them with information so they can make better choices,” he said. Overcome their sense of invincibility by sharing narratives of near-misses or crises that have happened in that area where they’re going. That will have more power than a list of dos and don’ts. Before planning a swimming excursion, educate student-athletes about riptides in that country, and find out if lifeguards will be on hand, or hire lifeguards. The same goes for hiring guides on zip-line or hiking excursions. Find out and communicate the rules of the road and license/insurance requirements for drivers. Or, better yet, keep student-athletes and staff out of the driver’s seat by just providing shuttle transportation and/or hiring a transport coordinator.
  8. Address conduct expectations. Teach them how to be a good guest, and what that means in that particular country. Encourage student-athletes to use positive peer pressure to reel in their teammates if they’re acting inappropriately. Explain that failure to do so can negatively impact the whole team because they and their teammates represent their team, their school and their country. Prepare student-athletes for how they’re expected to handle access to recreational drugs and alcohol, which may be legal in the host country but not back home. Warn student-athletes that using drugs or alcohol, or any other misconduct, would violate team and school conduct codes. Make sure student-athletes understand the potential ramifications and seriousness of misconduct and criminal activity, which could lead to arrest and land them in the criminal justice system in a foreign country, where they won’t be protected by U.S. laws or American status. Warn them that an incident involving a U.S. sports team could inadvertently trigger pre-existing distrust or animosity toward Americans.
  9. Have student-athletes register with the government before departure. Go to https://step.state.gov to register with the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
  10. Re-evaluate your international travel plans, procedures and partners on a frequent basis. Even if you’ve been taking the same team to the same foreign country for many years, don’t assume that nothing has changed or needs to be changed. “Complement that muscle memory with situational awareness,” Hutton advised. Look into what might have changed since your last trip, including politics, crime rates, safety standards and laws. The safety records of your transportation partners can even change. Or, to trim travel expenses, a staff member might have switched hotels, or a transportation coordinator might have changed shuttle providers. Find out exactly why it costs less money, and if the same safety precautions are in place.

For more information, go to http://www.oncallinternational.com.

You Make the Call
9/11/2013 12:00 AM

John Wilson, Jr. worked as the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania from 1999 through 2011.

Beginning in 2002, he received several poor performance evaluations from LHU Athletics Director Sharon Taylor. The evaluations documented great concern for Wilson’s fundraising, his players’ low grades, and his team’s poor win-loss record. On two occasions, the NCAA suspended him after discovering he allowed students to play even though they weren’t eligible under league rules. Wilson was told in April 2009 his employment contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired in 2011. He filed a complaint in December 2009, alleging LHU and Taylor discriminated against him on the basis of race (black) and created a hostile work environment.

John Wilson, Jr. worked as the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania from 1999 through 2011.

Beginning in 2002, he received several poor performance evaluations from LHU Athletics Director Sharon Taylor. The evaluations documented great concern for Wilson’s fundraising, his players’ low grades, and his team’s poor win-loss record. On two occasions, the NCAA suspended him after discovering he allowed students to play even though they weren’t eligible under league rules. Wilson was told in April 2009 his employment contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired in 2011. He filed a complaint in December 2009, alleging LHU and Taylor discriminated against him on the basis of race (black) and created a hostile work environment.

Wilson claimed his race played a role in his poor performance evaluations (making him ineligible for merit-based pay increases) and the nonrenewal of his employment contract.

Wilson alleged LHU athletes with white coaches received better treatment than his players with respect to rule violations. He claimed that because of his race, LHU failed to adequately defend him when it was determined he received different treatment regarding financial aid.

Wilson alleged his assistant coach received a lower salary than another assistant coach. He also pointed to an email he sent to Taylor in which he referred to Taylor’s comment that the presidential search committee consisted of three retired white men and Taylor’s question to him about whether he thought she was racist.

After the District Court granted summary judgment for the defendants, Wilson appealed.

Wilson, Jr. v. Lock Haven University, et al., No. 11-2221 (3d Cir. 04/05/12).

Did the appellate court uphold the judgment for the defendants?

A. Yes. The appeals court agreed with the trial judge in that the coach failed to demonstrate all the elements of a race discrimination case.

B. Yes. Although the coach introduced anecdotal evidence of possible race discrimination, it didn’t rise to the level of race discrimination under the law.

C. No. The appellate court held that employees can’t expect a perfect workplace where jokes or funny comments are categorically prohibited by the administration.

D. No. The appeals court held that the coach introduced sufficient evidence to preclude summary judgment and remanded the case for trial.

Correct answer: A

Wilson argued he was fired from his position due to racial discrimination. He had to show that: (1) he belonged to a protected class; (2) he was qualified for the position; (3) he was subjected to an adverse employment action despite being qualified; and (4) the adverse employment action was made under circumstances raising an inference of discriminatory action. The defendant had to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Then Wilson had to show the employer’s stated reason was pretextual — that is, an excuse to cover the real unlawful reason for his firing.

The appeals court agreed with the District Court that the defendants asserted several nondiscriminatory reasons for the adverse employment actions against Wilson, and Wilson didn’t offer sufficient evidence to show their reasoning was a pretext for discrimination. The judgment was affirmed.

You Make the Call

This regular feature details a recent court case. Review the facts. Think about how you would have handled the situation. Then test your legal knowledge by trying to determine how the court ruled.

  • Content Directory

    Browse free articles online!
    Browse Content
    Free Content
  • Free E-Alerts

    Sign up to receive exclusive content and special offers in the areas that interest you.
    Send
  • Subscription Formats

  • Meet the Editor

    Claudine McCarthy
    Editor

    Claudine McCarthy brings more than two decades of extensive and varied experience in journalism and publishing to College Athletics and the Law. She has had frequent articles published in many national and regional publications. And she’s edited everything from e-books to graduate-level textbooks for major publishing houses and individual authors
Copyright © 2000-2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. or related companies. All rights reserved.