Case name: Hardie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, No. 15‐55576 (9th Cir. 09/11/17).Ruling: The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit affirmed a ruling in favor of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.What it means: Certain nonviolent felonies — such as financial crimes, possession of controlled substances, and sports bribery — pose unreasonable risks for the safety of student‐athletes and the integrity of the recruiting process.Summary: Under NCAA rules, coaches and recruiters from Division I schools may only attend youth athletic tournaments that abide by the NCAA Participant Approval Policy.In 2011, that policy was amended to provide that anyone with a felony conviction was automatically denied approval to coach in an NCAA‐certified youth tournament.Dominic Hardie sued to enjoin enforcement of the amended Participant Approval Policy, alleging it violated the Civil Rights Act.However, the trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the NCAA.On appeal, Hardie argued that even though the NCAA had not acted with discriminatory bias, the amended policy fell disproportionately on black coaches, because they were more than three times as likely as whites to have been convicted of a felony.Hardie proposed the NCAA revert to the version of the policy that was in effect before 2011, which excluded applicants convicted of: (1) a violent felony or (2) a nonviolent felony if the conviction was less than seven years old.The NCAA countered that the policy was amended in 2011 because distinguishing between violent and nonviolent crimes was inadequate because certain nonviolent felonies — such as financial crimes, possession of controlled substances, and sports bribery — posed unreasonable risks for the safety of student‐athletes and the integrity of the recruiting process.Hardie contended that the pre‐2011 version was perfectly fine because no documented incidents occurred while it was in force. But the court said the NCAA could have reasonably concluded that the level of risk under the pre‐2011 policy was unacceptable, even if no tournament participants had been harmed. It also noted that Hardie had not offered any evidence to suggest that even a small increased risk posed by coaches with nonviolent felony convictions was immaterial to protecting the safety of young student‐athletes.As an alternative, Hardie proposed the NCAA conduct an individualized assessment of each applicant with a felony conviction to predict the actual risks posed by that particular applicant. In support of that proposal, Hardie pointed to guidelines promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that recommend employers adopt individualized assessments as a tool to avoid Title VII liability.But the panel said Hardie had not met his burden of showing that individualized assessments would be a less discriminatory alternative to the amended policy.The court affirmed the ruling of the trial judge.LAWSUITS & RULINGSThis regular feature summarizes recent court or agency records in rulings of interest to athletics administrators. Lawsuit court records are summarized by Richard H. Willits, Esq. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
College Athletics and the Law – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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