“Where We Stand: LEAD1 COVID-19 Report” Archive

  • Thursday, June 25th

    Thursday, June 25, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Virtual Forum Discusses Hot Topics in College Athletics

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

    On Wednesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar discussing some of latest hot issues in college sports. The panel, moderated by Stewart Whitehead (Chair of Universities & P3 Industry Group at Winstead PC), featured Dennis Braham (Co-Chair of Sports Business & Public Venues Industry Group at Winstead PC) and Mike Perrin (Of Counsel at Winstead PC and former University of Texas Men’s Athletic Director). Braham opened by the panel by emphasizing that the nature of business deals between athletics departments and vendors and other concessionaires (e.g., sponsors) may change dramatically as a result of COVID-19. Because previous contractual agreements may need to be adjusted based on the pandemic, Braham’s advice for athletics departments is to proactively examine the strengths and weaknesses of all current contracts. In this vein, athletics departments should be open-minded with respect to changing current agreements with sponsors (at least for temporary changes). Such possible changes may be based on a number of considerations including available amenities and allowable attendance figures in venues (largely influenced by state and university regulations).

    Whether fans are sitting in the stands or not, due to the pandemic, there may now be additional opportunities for athletics departments to monetize their virtual content. Sponsors, for example, may ask for virtual advertising (that was not necessarily agreed to in the original contract). In addition, increased social justice activities may now have an impact on sponsorships. To this end, athletics departments should be cognizant of all sponsorship branding and agreements may need to be modified accordingly. Furthermore, sponsors that have been impacted by COVID-19 (that may have had certain revenue expectations) may have walk-away rights and thus athletics departments should be flexible in terms of compromising with such sponsors.

    Braham also made the critical point that most current contracts likely inadequately address the issue of force majeure, a common clause in contracts that mitigates legal liability to parties from an obligation when an extraordinary event occurs. Moreover, many types of insurance coverages may not cover loss of income due to COVID-19 because the pandemic does not involve the common sort of physical damage to facilities (as a result, athletics departments should address force majeure in their current and future contracts). In addition, despite some capital markets being in turmoil, with respect to public-private partnerships, as it relates to venues, Braham encouraged athletics departments to continue planning so universities, from a marketing standpoint, can remain competitive in all aspects of the higher education experience.

    Perrin then discussed the current legal and legislative landscape as it pertains to the issue of student-athlete name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation. To highlight some of Perrin’s comments, there are now 37 states that are considering passing NIL models and there have been several introduced bills from Congress (including from Sen. Rubio this past week). In addition, other than groups such as LEAD1 and the Knight Commission, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a body that aims to bring stability to key areas of state statutory law, is analyzing the NIL issue and the various potential guardrails that may be needed within a regulatory structure (see more on this below). It is also worth mentioning that, just this past week, a new lawsuit was filed against the NCAA and several conferences on the NIL issue.

    Finally, Perrin highlighted some of the guardrails that may be needed within an NIL regulatory structure including establishing fair market value, addressing channel conflicts between preexisting team contracts and potential student-athlete NIL deals (included in many of the state bills), concerns with regard to boosters, and the possibility of establishing a third-party (separate from the NCAA) where NIL deals could be disclosed.

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

    Other Materials/Resources:

  • Wednesday, June 24th

    Wednesday, June 24, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Virtual Forum Covers All Things Testing for COVID-19

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

    On Tuesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar to help its member institutions better understand all aspects of testing for COVID-19. The testing subject is critical for college sports because as testing advances, so does the hope for the eventual return of college sports. The panel featured Joyce Gresko (Partner at Alston & Bird; who is also the Legal Counsel at the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA)) and two representatives at Eurofins, a worldwide laboratory testing company, David Morgan (President of Eurofins Transplant Diagnostics U.S.) and Sean Murray (President of Eurofins).

    Gresko opened the panel by providing an overview of COVID-19 testing and relevant regulations. First, Gresko highlighted that COVID-19 tests are typically performed in reference laboratories (such as Eurofins) or in a physician’s office or hospital. Second, Gresko outlined the various COVID-19 tests performed and their specific uses. PCR and Antigen tests, for example, are used to diagnose active cases of COVID-19. Antibody tests, on the other hand, are used to determine whether someone has been previously exposed to the virus. Third, Gresko stated that various specimen types may be used for testing purposes such as nasal swabs, saliva specimen and blood samples (for Antibody tests).

    Fourth, Gresko highlighted the ramifications of testing results and some of the regulations that determine who can ultimately get the results. A positive or detected result from a PCR test, for example, means that the virus has been detected and the individual would be presumed contagious – even without symptoms.  A detected result from an Antibody test indicates that the person may have been previously exposed to COVID-19, however, this result does not tell the individual whether they are still infected. It is worth mentioning that a detected result from an Antibody test does not necessarily mean that a person is immune to the virus – in other words, science has not fully determined the ramifications of a positive Antibody test. Moreover, the determination of who gets the testing results are guided by CLIA and HIPPA regulations (e.g., where the tested individual must consent). Fifth, Gresko described who pays for COVID-19 testing noting that “there is no such thing as free lunch.” While Congress has allocated some money to states for testing, many schools, for example, are paying out of pocket. Who pays also depends on whether the test is diagnostic (e.g., a common lab test to determine if an individual is symptomatic), a screening test (such as returning to school or work) or a public health test (to determine how far the disease may have spread into a certain community). Sixth, Gresko outlined various things to consider when contracting with a lab. It is important, for example, to make sure that the lab is CLIA certified. Gresko also recommended that schools develop a “Master Services Agreement” when contracting with a lab and that individual agreements may be needed for each sport.

    A couple other important notes from Gresko. First, most of the testing in the U.S. is being done by a handful of commercial labs (both for regular testing and specimen collection (e.g., specimens are taken to lab for the testing to be done).  In this regard, most of the previous supply shortages with regard to testing have been addressed (at least for now). Second, on specimen pooling (which we have seen in the news related to college basketball), a laboratory technique to save money and use fewer resources (mostly used for asymptomatic people), the FDA has recently released guidance on this issue — specimen can be tested in batches and if no virus is detected in the batch, a conclusion may be drawn that no one whose specimen was included currently has COVID-19.

    Eurofins then emphasized some of the key aspects of a good COVID-19 risk reduction program including physical separation, creative work arrangements and appropriate testing. In this regard, good COVID-19 risk reduction programs may include dedicated work spaces, athletes practicing in sub-groups (i.e., positions in football practicing and living together), requiring mask usage wherever feasible, time restrictions in locker rooms and “shift” workouts instead of team workouts. Eurofins made the critical point that even if colleges and universities take these actions, testing is still the cornerstone of any good risk reduction program due to the invisible nature of COVID-19 (people could therefore spread the disease unknowingly). To this point, unlike previous diseases, the majority of the spread of COVID-19 occurs “silently.”

    In addition, Eurofins outlined four key elements of an effective COVID-19 testing program. First, it is important to design testing protocols, for example, by determining the frequency in which to test based on various considerations such as the confirmed local positive growth rate, number of people onsite, and budget available. Second, colleges and universities can organize testing by choosing a lab that is nearby and implementing simple protocols such as collecting specimen on the same day(s).  Third, real-time data can be used to monitor testing results, for example, contact tracing via smartphones can be used to identify people who may have come into contact within an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Finally, reducing risk, such as implementing a testing regime can help colleges and universities measure the spread of COVID-19 and provide a better understanding of actions that may or may not be working.

    The panel also addressed various situations as it relates to college sports specifically such as approaching situations in which a student-athlete may not be forthcoming with respect to their symptoms, testing that may be needed based on particular sport, the possible risks associated with pooling, the ramifications of COVID-19 coupled with the flu season and the NCAA’s guidance in this area.

    In the next several weeks, LEAD1 will continue to be the place to be for all things COVID-19 testing for college sports. Please stay tuned.

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

  • Tuesday, June 23rd

    Tuesday, June 23, 2020

    College Athletics: Insurance and Risk Considerations Amid Pandemic Uncertainty

    Prepared by: Warren Harper, Chad Wright, and Peter Lacovara, Marsh LLC

    The last several months have been extraordinarily challenging for all of us. Across the country, millions of people have fallen ill — and thousands have died — from COVID-19. Many businesses are in dire straits. And anxiety and uncertainty have become the norm. Compounding these challenges is that many forms of live entertainment — including sports — that have offered an escape to Americans during past crises have been halted amid the pandemic.

    While economies are gradually reopening and society is slowly moving toward a new normal, great uncertainty remains, including for athletic programs that can represent significant sources of revenue for colleges and universities. As they make decisions about when, where, and how to resume competitive play and other activities, risk professionals and senior leaders should work with their insurance and risk advisors to review relevant insurance coverage and to explore and adopt strategies that can help mitigate and manage potential safety, operational, and financial risks.

    Event Cancellation Coverage Has Limitations
    Event cancellation insurance coverage — which some colleges and universities have traditionally purchased — could respond if an event must shut down because of a confirmed COVID-19 case on a venue’s premises or a ban on mass gatherings by local or state government. Some forms of event cancellation coverage have typically included communicable diseases; in other cases, this coverage was specifically excluded, but — prior to the start of the COVID-19 outbreak — policyholders could generally add it back if willing to pay additional premium.

    Following considerable losses related to COVID-19, however, most event cancellation insurers are now excluding coverage for communicable disease. It’s also important to note that event cancellation coverage will likely not respond if an event is preemptively cancelled due to fear of the pandemic’s spread, and policies often require that an organizer make a good faith effort to reschedule an event before cancelling it.

    Exclusions in Other Forms of Insurance
    Some other forms of commercial insurance coverage could also respond to potential losses. The last several months, however, have demonstrated that these options can have significant limitations. For example:

    • Standard property insurance policies generally are triggered by insured physical loss or damage. But if COVID-19 manifests at an insured’s premises, insurers may contend that there has been no physical loss or damage. Insurers could also seek to invoke “contamination” or other policy exclusions.
    • Policyholders may look to the interruption by civil authority extension in their business interruption policies for potential coverage — for example, arising from shutdowns and closures such as those mandated by governors in many states. Insurers, however, may argue that shutdown orders in and of themselves do not trigger coverage.
    • Workers’ compensation coverage may respond in the event that employees — including coaches, trainers, security staff, and others — contract COVID-19 in the workplace. But as the disease has spread, it has become increasingly difficult to determine whether an illness is the result of a workplace exposure.
    • A claim brought by a third party — for example, a spectator or vendor — for bodily injury or property damage resulting from an alleged unintentional or negligent failure to protect from the virus could be expected to fall within the basic coverage grant of a general liability insurance policy. Insurers, however, may seek to assert exclusions for pollution, fungi/bacteria, intentional acts, and communicable disease.

     

    Risk professionals should work with their brokers to understand key language in these and other policies, seek to remove exclusions where possible, and prepare for potential claims filings.

    New and Emerging Solutions May Provide Recourse
    Although traditional forms of coverage can provide some protection, colleges, universities, and others generally have had few dedicated pandemic coverage options. But the insurance industry is working to develop new solutions.

    Marsh, together with Metabiota and Munich Re, sought to address this gap as early as 2018 by launching PathogenRX to help organizations mitigate the financial risks posed by outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. PathogenRX can provide customizable coverage for the loss of gross profits, loss of revenue, and extra expense incurred as a result of an infectious disease event in a designated geographical coverage area. Coverage can be triggered by straightforward, objective metrics, such as mortality count, or explicitly defined events, such as a civil authority lockdown or the declaration of a public health emergency.

    Although coverage via PathogenRX for COVID-19 specifically has not been available since the outbreak began to spread in early 2020 — and will likely not be available in the event of a second COVID-19 wave — organizations can obtain coverage for future events. Prospective buyers, however, should be mindful of the high customer demand, which could slow the purchasing process, and potential limitations on available capacity driven by other factors affecting the overall insurance marketplace.

    Given the limitations of the commercial insurance marketplace in offering viable pandemic coverage options to buyers, Marsh has advocated on behalf of our clients for the creation of a public-private pandemic risk solution that can accelerate economic recovery and provide much-needed protection against future pandemic risks. Legislation to create such a program — the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020 — was introduced in the US House of Representatives on May 26 and is currently being considered by lawmakers.

    Marsh will continue to engage with policymakers in Washington — together with national risk management and industry trade groups — to advocate for a pandemic solution that includes coverage for event cancellation and other business priorities. Such a solution should prioritize resilience and mitigation and bend the risk curve for all stakeholders. We’ll also continue to explore other options — like PathogenRX — to help organizations and their risk professionals to better manage future pandemic-related risks.

    Protecting People and Operations
    As college athletic programs resume, it will be incumbent on organizers’ health and safety teams to work with local and state authorities and public health officials to minimize the risk of transmission among players, fans, coaches, and others. In April, the World Health Organization (WHO) published interim guidance for sports event organizers that are planning mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19. Among other actions, the WHO recommends that organizers:

    • Make hand sanitizer readily available to players, spectators, and others.
    • Check players’ temperatures daily.
    • Ensure capacity to isolate suspected COVID-19 cases.
    • Provide players with clean water bottles and towels, which should be for single use only.
    • Disinfect key surfaces several times per day.
    • Ensure medical staff and sick individuals have access to medical masks.

     

    Beyond these actions, organizers should ensure that employees receive proper training on COVID-19 and that key risks are communicated to both players and fans before they attend or participate in any events. College and university staff should also work with venues to consider revised seating plans and queueing and restroom arrangements to promote physical distancing, and enable entry screening and the use of e-tickets. And they should ensure that caterers and other vendors adhere to high standards on hygiene and are able to support mobile/digital payments instead of cash to reduce physical contact.

    In addition to people, risk professionals and leadership must also protect their bottom lines. Beyond working with brokers to manage insurance programs, organizers and their in-house and outside counsel should review critical contracts — including with venues and broadcasters — to understand the financial implications of further cancellations, delays, and other potential scenarios, and carefully consider whether to extend or renew sponsorship and licensing contracts that could present liabilities. Organizers should also consider whether to revise ticket refund policies, terms, and conditions.

    Staying Agile and Resilient
    Before COVID-19, some organizations might have had “pandemic” on their risk registers, but had never taken steps to truly prepare for a situation like the one we’re in. Organizations now have a greater understanding of pandemic risk, but with so much focus on immediate steps necessary to reopen and to begin scaling operations, many are not thinking further ahead.

    Even as the first wave of COVID-19 cases in the US has not subsided, colleges and universities should be preparing for a possible second wave of infection during the academic year. Schools resuming athletic programs now may be forced to make difficult decisions, including slowing their reopening plans, or even shutting back down. Fears about the pandemic may also heighten absenteeism among players and coaches and contribute to limited attendance by fans.

    Risk professionals, working closely with their risk consultants and other advisors, should envision various risk scenarios for college athletic programs and build game plans to address them. Consider a hypothetical scenario surrounding a second wave of COVID-19, using a financial stress test approach. The list of questions will vary based on each organization’s situation, but generally would include:

    • What will it mean for us if the second wave starts in October 2020 versus January 2021?
    • What if the US experiences the second wave before other geographies, receiving less warning and lead time than we did with the first wave?
    • What if we have 90 days — instead of 180 — to understand the potential effects and scale operations?
    • How do the impacts on players, coaches, fans, and others vary under different timeline scenarios?
    • How will it affect our relationships with broadcasters, venues, vendors, and others?
    • What are the conditions that would necessitate slowing down our reopening or contemplate shutting back down?

     

    Understanding different scenarios and asking questions such as these will allow risk professionals, financial experts, and others to begin modeling financial impacts and make decisions around the way they allocate risk resources or risk capital.

    Managing Risk and the Unknown
    The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, nor is the uncertainty for college athletics programs, players, and fans. As the crisis continues, it’s imperative that risk professionals and senior leaders — in consultation with their insurance and risk advisors — closely examine their insurance programs, take steps to protect people and finances, and plan for what’s ahead.

    Warren Harper is a managing director and Sports & Events Industry Practice leader within Marsh’s International Division. Chad Wright is a managing director and head of North American Alternative Risk Transfer at Marsh. Peter Lacovara is a senior vice president and Marsh’s Alternative Risk Transfer leader.

  • Monday, June 22nd

    Monday, June 22, 2020

    Recovering Lost Athletic Department Revenue From Insurers

    Prepared by: William Bloom, Associate & Meghan Strong, Associate, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP

    Alabama’s goal line stand to win the 1979 Sugar Bowl. Boise State’s Statue of Liberty play. Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary. The Kick Six. The Play. These moments live in the collective memory of college football fans and immortalized the players behind them. Yet etched in that memory is the roar of the crowd as the impossible became possible. Perhaps no class of sports is more associated with its fandom than college athletics. That is why it is so difficult to imagine a season of college athletics with limited fan attendance As university administrators and athletic directors are aware, though, such limitations on attendance will be difficult to avoid as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Beyond its effect on the viewing experience, limitations on attendance at athletic contests will result in a significant loss of revenue for athletic departments around the nation. By one estimate, without the ticket revenue from college football alone, only two athletic departments will be able to cover expenses without relying on student fees or university support. And the cancellation of the men’s Division I basketball tournament already cost the NCAA nearly $375 million that would have otherwise gone to member schools. While they cannot conjure the magic of a sold out college stadium, insurance policies may offer a means of collecting lost revenue associated with restrictions on attendance at college sporting events. University administrators should be aware of their various options in filing insurance claims for lost athletic department revenue and why a rejection letter from their insurer is far from the end of the process.

    When examining whether insurance provides a potential means of recouping lost athletic department revenue, university administrators should look to their property insurance policies. Such policies may offer business interruption coverage, which is designed to compensate a business for lost revenue if it is temporarily unable to operate or its operations suffer a slowdown. A variety of businesses throughout the United States have filed claims against insurers for COVID-19-related business interruptions, including restaurants and bars. The argument for business interruption coverage for athletic departments is similar: as a result of COVID-19, colleges and universities suffer losses in revenue due to cancelling sporting events or hosting such events with restrictions on spectator attendance.

    Admittedly, insurers have pushed back against entities that have filed claims for business interruption losses related to COVID-19. A consistent refrain from recalcitrant insurers is that the insured must suffer direct physical damage to or physical loss of the property in order to utilize business interruption coverage. Such an argument ignores the fact that the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, itself results in physical damage to the property in question. Beyond semantics, courts have held that where a foreign substance precludes the intended use of property, an owner suffers a direct physical loss of that property.[1] Such decisions cast doubt on insurers’ argument that structural damage is required to seek business interruption coverage.

    Insurers have also argued that, even if business losses caused by COVID-19 seemingly fall within the terms of a property insurance policy, insurers did not intend to cover such losses with those policies. At least one insurance industry official has publicly argued that “Unless somebody specifically said, ‘I’d like coverage to cover viruses and a pandemic,’ and that was put in, the policy was not designed or priced or intended to cover that.” But a review of the basic structure and text of property insurance policies casts doubt on such a broad proposition.

    Business interruption coverage tends to fall within two categories: “named peril” or “all risk.” Named-peril coverage includes an explicit list of the sort of risks that are covered, whereas all-risk coverage covers all risks except those explicitly excluded. In 2006, insurers responded to the worldwide SARS outbreak by creating a specific exclusion for losses or damages resulting from “any virus, bacterium or other microorganism.” While some policies include that viral exclusion, others do not. As plaintiffs seeking business interruption coverage for COVID-19-related losses have noted, where an all-risk policy fails to explicitly exclude viruses, it undermines the idea that the policy was not “designed” or “intended” to protect against viral outbreaks such COVID-19.

    Civil authority provisions present another potential avenue for colleges and universities to recoup lost athletic department revenue. Such provisions insure against the loss of revenue that results from government actions preventing or limiting the use of a business. As mayors and governors begin announcing substantial limits on the number of spectators who can attend college sporting events beginning in the fall, it is easy to see how civil authority provisions may help mitigate the damage caused by limited spectator attendance. Where colleges and universities find themselves subject to such restrictions imposed by state or local governments, civil authority provisions may allow them to recoup resultant lost revenue.

    Outside of property insurance, colleges and universities should examine event-cancellation policies for sporting events negatively affected by COVID-19. Event-cancellation insurance pays for lost revenue that results from the cancellation or reduction of attendance at particular events. Notably, such policies tend to be tailored toward individual clients and might cover state or local limitations on the size of attendance at sporting events or the inability of individuals to travel to the insured event. They may also include virus exclusions akin to those found in some property insurance policies. As a consequence, it is important for university administrators to review such policies with legal counsel when determining whether their policies cover losses associated with COVID-19-related restrictions.

    Perhaps more important than the arguments supporting insurance coverage for lost athletics revenue resulting from COVID-19 are the steps university administrators should take to protect their ability to pursue such coverage. To receive the protections they paid for with their insurance premiums, colleges and universities should consider filing an insurance claim to perfect and preserve their potential legal remedies. Claims should be worded broadly to avoid an insurer narrowly construing the request. Indeed, obtaining legal counsel to assist in crafting those claims can lay the foundation for a successful legal battle in the event an insurer rejects a claim. Even where a policy appears to cover an athletic department’s lost revenue due to COVID-19, colleges and universities should not be surprised if their insurer rejects their initial claims. Such rejections are the time when attorneys can assist with further negotiations with insurers and, if necessary, litigation to enforce and collect on insurance policies. Although this season of college athletics will indeed be unprecedented, the protections afforded by insurance policies can help alleviate the financial toll on athletic departments.


    [1] See Oregon Shakespeare Festival Ass’n v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 2016 WL 3267247, at *9 (D. Or. June 7, 2016) (wildfire smoke that infiltrated a theater “and rendered it unusable for its intended purpose” was a “physical loss or damage to property”), vacated by joint stipulation of the parties, 2017 WL 1034203 (D. Or. Mar. 6, 2017); Gregory Packaging, Inc. v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am., 2014 WL 6675934, at *6 (D.N.J. Nov. 25, 2014) (an ammonia release that rendered a facility unusable for a period of time caused “direct physical loss of or damage to” the facility); Widder v. La. Cit. Prop. Ins., 82 So. 3d 294, 296 (La. 2011) (intrusion of lead-based paint, which originated in part from outside the property, resulted in “a direct physical loss”).

  • Thursday, June 18th

    Thursday, June 18, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Virtual Forum Discusses Strategies in Ticketing For Reopening Venues

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

    On Wednesday, with more than 800 registrants on its virtual forum, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar for its member institutions, the second of three for its “Reopening Venues” series. The panel, moderated by Lisa Walker (Senior Vice President, Business Development College Athletics at Eventellect), featuring Maureen Andersen (President & CEO at the International Ticketing Association (INTIX)), Anthony Esposito (Vice President, Ticketing Operations at the Atlanta Braves) and Rick Thorpe (Deputy Athletics Director, External Engagement at the University of Arkansas (The U of A), discussed some of the strategies in ticketing for the return of college sports.

    Andersen opened the panel by emphasizing that “one-size-fits-all” will no longer be acceptable policy for college sports fans. In other words, athletics departments will need to be flexible in terms of catering their specific ticketing and game-day policies for various segments of fans. A 65-year-old fan, for example, may have different needs than a fan in their mid-20’s based upon possible risks and concerns related to COVID-19. In addition, “no refund” policies may be a thing of the past as fans may no longer accept vouchers as reimbursement for being uncomfortable to attend a live sporting event.

    Athletics departments may also need to provide greater flexibility with respect to season ticket packages (i.e., opportunities to defer payments and/or provide full refunds) and implement various new policies for game-day operations (such as scheduling timed entries into venues). Andersen further stressed the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on college sports’ ticketing policies (for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), frequently updates its guidance). For instance, what happens in game one of fans’ return to venues may look vastly different than games two and three based upon lessons learned as venues reopen. Finally, Andersen highlighted that every segment of the live entertainment industry should look to each other for guidance. Countries outside of the United States, like Australia, for example, have developed technology and live entertainment risk mitigation strategies that college sports can use as guidance.

    Esposito then used Major League Baseball (MLB) as an example with respect to the ticket purchasing and gate entry experiences. Fans who purchase tickets online, for example, may be asked to sign a health waiver, essentially assuming the risks of attending a live sporting event. Securing tickets at the box office may also change with potential cashless-only ticketing policies and changes at will call (because of fan concerns regarding touching paper ticket stocks and envelopes). Gate entry policies may also change such as venues establishing temperature checks before fans enter stadiums. For instance, tented areas will likely be established by entrance points for any fan’s temperature above a certain threshold. Depending on the situation, fans with a temperature above that certain threshold, could then be brought into an air-conditioned environment for further evaluation before a final determination regarding entrance into the venue. In addition, in-venue staff will likely be required to wear masks and fans will be prohibited from sitting in aisle seats to maintain social distancing (for fans walking down aisles). It is also worth mentioning that Esposito’s, the Atlanta Braves, will likely only sell individual game tickets, while possibly granting priority purchasing to current season ticket holders.

    To round out the panel, Thorpe highlighted the importance of maintaining trust with college sports fans and reiterated the need for evolving ticketing strategies. For example, Thorpe’s, the U of A, has frequently updated its fans regarding the status of ticketing and created flexible deadlines for renewing football season tickets (such as creating customized payment plans and extending renewal deadlines). Thorpe also underscored that in all decision-making with respect to reopening venues, the health and safety of its fans is always prioritized (in this regard, the U of A predicates all of its venue planning based upon federal and state medical guidelines). With respect to Olympic sports, for example, the U of A will reserve all seats to maintain social distancing. At the same time, the U of A, will still attempt to maximize fan access by exploring alternative fan experiences and maximizing the number of fans who attend games this season (such as by offering partial season plans).

    Please Note: Part Three of LEAD1’s “Reopening Venues” webinar series, entitled “Navigating Changing Behaviors in Sports Fans During COVID-19,” will take place on Tuesday, June 30th at 1:00 PM EST. This webinar will feature Michal Lorenc (Head of Industry, Ticketing and Live Events at Google) who will compare real-time data to help the college sports industry better understand fans’ readiness to return to sporting events, as well as how the sports industry can evolve in a post-COVID world.

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

  • Wednesday, June 17th

    Wednesday, June 17, 2020

    COVID-19, Higher Education / College Athletics, Executive Search

    Prepared by Jeff Schemmel, Founder and President, College Sports Solutions (CSS) & Dan Walters, Associate Partner, Higher Education and Sports Practice, Buffkin/Baker

    COVID-19 has altered hiring and executive search practices in Higher Education and College Athletics just as it has many other industries around the

    world. The goal of building a diverse and highly qualified candidate pool and ultimately finding that next dynamic leader has not changed, but many details and nuances of the search process have changed dramatically. Below we look at the specific turnover in NCAA Men’s College Basketball Head Coaches and the overall impact of Covid-19 and the search process.

    LACK OF TURNOVER IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL
    One needs to look no further than major college basketball to see the depth of the Covid-19 labor market disruption. During this 2020 academic year, there have been only four Men’s (1) and Women’s (3) basketball coaching changes in the so-called “Power 5” conferences. This is a dramatically lower number than what college basketball has experienced and grown accustomed to in recent years. It is also apparent throughout the Group of 5, FCS and other NCAA divisions.

    This slowdown can be primarily attributed to multiple financial issues that have confronted every collegiate athletic department in the country. There are also significant concerns about building a deep candidate pool and executing a thorough search.

     

     

    BUDGETARY, RECRUITMENT & SEARCH EXECUTION CONCERNS EFFECTING HIRING and TURNOVER

    • Hiring freezes and salary reductions are prevalent on nearly every campus
    • State Budget Reductions
    • Concern surrounding 2020 Football and Basketball Season
    • Potential disruptive effects on University and College Fundraising / Advancement Initiatives
    • Candidate recruitment concerns
    • Restrictions on meeting candidates in person

     

    Although it is widely believed that many of the above budgetary concerns and their effects will stay with college athletics for years to come, it is still too early to know the permanent impact and fallout of Covid-19. What we do know and have already experienced are the many changes to the search process necessitated by the social restrictions in place across the country. Search processes have become much more virtual with new and refined norms that effect both candidates and hiring authorities. What we would never have considered in the past may well become the new and continued normal.

     

    NEW NORMS for VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS

    • Candidate Perspective   
      • Know your Technology (video, audio, internet connection, sharing files, familiar with platform)
      • Virtual Professionalism
        • Know your surroundings / background, what are you portraying
      • Understanding your audience is more important than ever
      • Understand the interview format and expectations
      • Be Yourself
    • Hiring Authority Perspective
      • Technology platform – what is best for the most engaging experience?
      • How will the questions be asked?
        • Follow-Up Questions?
      • Who will lead the discussion?
      • More in depth due diligence on candidates
        • Leadership / Personality Assessment?
      • Third party background checks

     

    SILVER LININGS / POSITIVE CHANGE
    With every difficult situation and disruption there are typically silver linings and positive change. We are either experiencing or expecting to experience the following:

    • More candidates can be engaged / interviewed
    • Multiple interviews are more possible and more time efficient
    • Cost Savings – virtual interviews are much less expensive
      • no airport interviews
      • less or no on-campus interviews
    • Greater foresight and thoughtfulness on long term financial obligations
    • An overall greater efficiency and expedited process

     

    Ultimately, we are still in the early innings of the Covid-19 Pandemic and its effects on College Athletics. However, leadership positions will continue to turnover and strong forward-thinking leadership has never been more important. Institutions, hiring authorities and potential candidates must embrace the current and continuing virtual realities and opportunities of conducting a successful search in this evolving environment.

  • Tuesday, June 16th

    Tuesday, June 16, 2020

    Preparing for GameDay

    Prepared by Jordan Fladell, CEO, MLevel

    Preparing for GameDay – How to best educate your staff, fans and put your University in the best position to succeed.Athletes have begun to return to campus and summer workouts are getting underway. It is now time to turn our attention to GameDay as we are less then 12 weeks away from kickoff. As you build your plans to welcome fans back to your campus it is important to both prepare them and your staff on how to best operate in this new COVID-19 world.Address the planning. It is important for each university to build comprehensive plans that cover everything from tailgating to leaving the arena. Items on your list should include items such as follows:

    • Social distancing requirements during tailgating
    • Use of Facemasks both in the parking lot and stadium
    • Entry time and procedures to get in the building
    • Temperature checks or any other precautionary health checks
    • Flow of traffic upon entering the stadium
    • Concession line rules of operation
    • Bathroom rules of operation
    • In game movement rules of operation
    • Post-game exit rules of operation

    Each one of these items are important and for your game day staff, however, we would add the following.

    • How to deal with fans who do not follow the rules
    • Do not show up to work if you are not feeling well
    • Health checks for staff on game day what to expect

    Once these plans are laid out the next and most important step is educational training. Due to COVID-19, the previous models of educating game day staff in person should be changed. It is important to train all game day staff virtually before they arrive at your arena to ensure they do not show up sick and that they are prepared to implement your game day operations. It is recommended that you have the platform/capability to track all educational training should an employee and/or contractor files a workers comp claim or gross negligence lawsuit you have the data handy to demonstrate your University did effectively train all staff.

    Beyond the staff, Universities should take the extra step of educating alumni, fans and most importantly both suite/season, and individual game ticket holders. While having the consumer sign a waiver of liability may be a good idea, taking the extra step of educating them on your new game day experience will help your staff make sure those regulations are followed.

    Educational recommendations for the fan/consumer:

    • Point of Entry. Letting your fans know they need to enter the building 90 minutes early to allow for longer wait times due to limited gate staff or health checks will help your game day security team keep them calm while they wait in line.
    • Exit procedures. We have already seen examples of failures in this arena within the airline industry due to the impatience of human beings. One idea to try could be controlled exiting by sections in order to control flow.
    • Financial fundraiser. Ask the fan base for help financially and include a donation link at the end of the fan education to help off set the additional costs and lost revenue your University faces due to COVID-19.
  • Monday, June 15th

    Monday, June 15, 2020

    Compliance Considerations for Cutting Sports in the COVID-19 Era

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association and John Long, Of Counsel (Houston), Jackson Lewis PC

    One of the externalities of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the loss of intercollegiate sports programs across the United States. Between March and June 2020, 30 NCAA Division I sports teams have been discontinued, with more cuts likely coming. Cutting a varsity sport, much less a Division I varsity sport, is no easy decision for college administrators. The current economic reality on campuses across the country may prevent the choice to save athletic opportunities.

    Understanding the unfortunate reality that sports cutting may be unavoidable, administrators should appropriately calculate the impact that reclassification or elimination of a sport will have on the institution’s compliance with Title IX. Title IX requires that institutions appropriately provide athletic opportunities accommodating the interest and athletic abilities of its students.

    To comply with the Interests and Abilities component of Title IX, institutions must provide competition opportunities at the appropriate competition level while also meeting at least one part of the “three-part test” for competitive opportunities. These aspects are critical in assessing the impact of cutting or reclassification a sport on Title IX compliance.

    Institutions should also look to the “two-part test,” in assessing whether the school would still be providing competition at the appropriate level of competition after elimination or reclassification of a program. An institution should be able to demonstrate that it is still providing competition at the appropriate level, even after elimination or reclassification of a program, by meeting one of the two tests offered under the two-part test.

    The first test requires institutions to assess information related to the competitive level of scheduled competition for its remaining varsity programs. A close proportionality of the percentage of events scheduled at the equivalent competition level for men’s and women’s sports is indicative of compliance with the first test for competition levels. Institutions should ensure that its remaining Division I male and female sports continue to predominantly play against Division I competition.

    The second test for competition levels involves a demonstration that the institution has a history of and is continuing to upgrade the competition level for the underrepresented sex. Declassification of sports participated in by the underrepresented sex on campus will present an issue for institutions who rely on the second test to demonstrate that they are providing the equivalent quality of competitive opportunities for men’s and women’s sports.

    In addition to assessing the competitive levels of men’s and women’s sports, institutions will also need to determine if it will still be providing equivalent competitive opportunities for men’s and women’s student-athletes after the elimination or reclassification of varsity sports. As alluded to earlier, this assessment involves an analysis of the three-part test for competitive opportunities. To comply, institutions will need to demonstrate that they accommodate interests and abilities under at least one of the three parts.

    • Part I: Proportional participation of male and female athletes in varsity athletics program; OR
    • Part II:  A history of program expansion for the under-represented sex; OR
    • Part III: Present accommodation of interests and abilities.

    While cutting the over-represented sex’s (oftentimes men’s)sports opportunities has been supported by some courts as a legal manner to comply with Part I – Proportionality, the elimination or reclassification of a sport may jeopardize the institution’s ability todemonstrate compliance with Part II and Part III of the three-part test. Institutions cutting sports should take meticulous care in ensuring that they will be able to manage the rosters of its remaining sports to stay within an appropriate threshold of proportionality.

    The Office of Civil Rights – the executive agency tasked with interpreting and enforcing Title IX – historically interprets the threshold for compliance with Part I to be 2% or less, meaning that there can be no more than a 2% variation between the representation of male and female student-athletes in comparison to the overall percentage of male and female undergraduate students who are enrolled full-time. Additional formulas are applied to confirm that substantial proportionality exists.  Given enrollment fluctuations and unforeseen roster changes, compliance with Part I is a tough task requiring constant supervision.

    Institutions unable to demonstrate equitable proportionality under Part I will be left with Part II and Part III of the three-part test to demonstrate compliance. Part II of the competition opportunity test assesses whether the institution has a continued history of program expansion for the underrepresented sex. The reclassification or elimination of sports for the over-represented sex, obviously, does not expand opportunities for the under-represented sex. Reclassification or elimination of a sport for the under-represented sex is in direct contradiction to Part II of the three-part test and will most likely eliminate a school from meeting this test. Institutions relying on Part II must be prepared to produce contemporaneous evidence that program expansion was in direct response to the growing interest and abilities of its female students.

    Part III of the three-part test for participation opportunities is the most complex. Like Part II, the reclassification or elimination of a varsity sport does not help an institution in demonstrating that it is actively and fully accommodating the interests and abilities of students on campus, as the existence of a varsity sport carries with it a presumption that there is sufficient interest and ability to sponsor the sport at the varsity level. Therefore, institutions who cut sports and rely on Part III to comply must be prepared to demonstrate that the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex are sufficiently being met by the sport’s sponsorship at a lower level. Relying on Part III requires comprehensive strategic planning involving multiple departments on campus.  It is recommended that institutions anticipating the reclassification or elimination of sports should consult with counsel if it relies on Part III to demonstrate accommodation of interests and abilities under Title IX.

    LEAD1 and Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor and update membership regarding any updates on the topic of sports-cutting and Title IX.  Please feel free to contact John Long of Jackson Lewis for advice and counsel related to any component of Title IX – Gender Equity.

  • Thursday, June 11th

    Thursday, June 11, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Virtual Forum Discusses Getting Back to Business; Reopening Venues

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

    On Wednesday, with approximately 850 registrants on its virtual forum, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar for its member institutions discussing some of the key areas to safely reopen college sports venues when games return this fall. The panel, moderated by Gensler Sports’, Ryan Sickman (who has designed, managed and overseen a number of prominent sports facilities), featured Robert Housman (the former Assistant Director for Strategic Planning for the Clinton Administration), Russ Simons (Managing Partner at Venue Solutions Group) and Drew Martin (Director for External Affairs for the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).

    Housman, a partner at Regal Decision Systems, Inc., a company that uses simulation modeling to optimize human traffic flow within facilities, opened the panel by showcasing various simulations demonstrating certain mitigation strategies for creating optimal fan traffic flow in stadiums. The simulations were an eye opening glimpse into the new realities for college sports fans in a COVID-19 world. Housman, for example, presented several demonstrations related to possible needed changes with respect to security at entrance points (i.e., social distancing measures) and single directional flowing inside the stadium. Housman also illustrated common situations in stadiums that have historically been “normal” occurrences that may now require changes such as mitigating clusters of people in tunnel spaces, distancing fans in ticketing lines and limiting seating to premium options. The critical point is that every venue will need to be analyzed on a case by case basis and one size will not fit all in terms of strategies for fan traffic management.

    Simons then outlined key considerations related to venue sanitation, food service and staff safety and training. First, regarding venue sanitation, Simons recommended that athletics departments examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance, which describes proper disinfectants (e.g., cleaning products) to use for certain types of environments. Simons also recommended ATP testing for bacteria (given that cleaning for bacteria could help cover other types of contamination). In addition, Simons generally highlighted the importance of deep cleaning (i.e., going into smaller areas to clean) and understanding the difference between cleaning and sanitizing (cleaning merely removes debris whereas sanitizing reduces bacteria on surfaces). Second, with respect to food service, Simons described several possible COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as imposing social distancing restrictions on concourses and implementing “cashless” lines as well as grab-and-go food stations (and possibly requiring hand sanitizing at these stations). Simons noted that venue strategies may differ state by state (depending on various state regulations, for example, “cashless” may be illegal in some states). Third, Simons underscored that all athletics staff should be trained specifically for implementing COVID-19 safety procedures.

    Finally, Martin emphasized the importance of athletic department internal contingency planning to prepare for all aspects of collegiate life returning. For example, to plan ahead, Martin’s, UT Austin, created various internal committees comprised of senior athletics staff in several areas such as facilities and events and fan and donor engagement (noting that the established committees have followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other state and local guidelines). Some of the policies implemented from these groups include procedures for people coming to campus (such as temperature checkpoints, mask requirements and time restrictions for being on campus) as well as certain hygiene procedures for all staff and student-athletes (handwashing, wiping desks and towel usage restrictions). Moreover, to safely engage with fans, UT Austin plans to deploy certain technology, such as mobile ticketing, mobile publications (e.g., digital engagement appearing on phones) and mobile polling during games. All in all, Martin stated that UT Austin will implement an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, which will require all staff to play a critical role in event operations.

    For more information, feel free to reach out to our moderator, Ryan Sickman (Gensler Sports) at ryan_sickman@gensler.com or 816-204-1988.

    Webinar Resources (Recording, Slides, etc.) HERE

  • Wednesday, June 10th

    Wednesday, June 10, 2020

    Embrace the New Normal:  How College Programs Can Bring Value and Engage Fans During an Uncertain Time

    Prepared by: Irwin A. Kishner, Partner; Executive Chairman; Co-Chair, Sports Law Group, Daniel A. Etna, Partner; Co-Chair, Sports Law Group, and Stephen DiMaria, Associate, Herrick Feinstein LLP

    The COVID-19 pandemic has generated much uncertainty for collegiate sports and the sports industry generally. This uncertainty must be embraced as the new normal for the foreseeable future. Nimble collegiate athletic programs will seize the opportunity presented by, and address the challenges of operating under, the new normal. Collegiate athletic programs need to assess their existing fan, sponsorship and media relationships and consider alternate ways of maintaining and improving these relationships. Thinking outside of the box is the critical driver of success. The implementation of innovative initiatives will also serve to mitigate the degree of cost-cutting that collegiate athletic programs have undertaken or are facing.

    No collegiate athletic program is the same as another program.  The strengths and weaknesses of each collegiate athletic program need to be assessed and thereafter customized alternatives developed. Opportunities abound for collegiate athletic programs to develop alternative advertising, sponsorship and media rights packages, as well as creating new innovative programs targeted to create fan interaction with the team, and its players and coaching staff. These new initiatives can be expected to soften the impact of collegiate athletic programs losing out on traditional revenue streams associated with game day such as ticket sales. Further, while the COVID-19 pandemic will be temporary, the new initiatives need not be.

    The absence of fans in stadiums is perhaps the most visceral anticipated change in the way games will be played. Germany’s Bundesliga has resumed the playing of soccer games in empty-stadiums with socially distant goal celebrations and the addition of artificial fan noise from the stands.  One club has taken advantage of the situation with a positive fan-centric measure by allowing fans to take pictures decked out in fan gear and pay a small fee to ensure a seat in the stadium for a cardboard cutout likeness. This move is an interesting prompt on how teams could make use of empty stadiums for creative revenue gain and fan engagement.

    Plainly put, empty seats mean more space. Collegiate athletic programs have the ability to fill seating areas with whatever creative ideas they can envision and should consider the advertising potential. Entire seating areas could be wrapped in large advertisements for the team’s biggest sponsors. Without fans in the stands, collegiate athletic programs may also consider expanding advertising on the field through sales of additional real estate for sponsorship space. Programs could also consider putting the names of fans or high-contributing donors on the field in exchange for donations, representatively putting those fans on their field since they cannot be present in the stands. In negotiating media rights for live games in empty stadiums, teams may be able to find additional rights to offer from an empty stadium that they otherwise might not have been able to provide.

    Collegiate athletic programs should also consider how they could offer additional luxury or premium experiences. Although the circumstances of a season amidst a pandemic are not ideal, they do result in potentially unique game experiences. Because fans may not fill a large number of seats, allowing the attendance of a few important donors kept in socially distant seating could provide a rare and even historic experience. The ability to be a part of an elite group of spectators in the stands during a game could be attractive to certain donors. Memorabilia from these empty-stadium games also could be a coveted piece of the team’s history that fans could acquire. Luxury or exclusive experiences could also be successful in extending beyond the field, including tours and behind the scenes experiences for small groups or individual donors. Visits to training facilities, locker rooms, or areas of the stadium that are usually closed to fans could engage fans in a new way and provide unprecedented access to the teams. During a time of social distancing, it may even be preferable to provide these tours and behind the scene experiences over social media live platforms or other video broadcasting software because they allow direct connection to the teams and events and ensure that fans do not lose connections with their favorite teams.

    Broadcasting live over social media provides a range of opportunities both open to the public for fan engagement and set privately for premium experiences. During the current cancelled or curtailed seasons, professional athletes have taken to social media independently with videos of workouts and untold stories of their experiences, while also appearing on official team feeds for fan-driven discussion. Coaches and teams could provide fans with plenty of engaging content through social media platforms such as Instagram Live to provide behind the scenes footage, live broadcasts from the stands at a game, or sit-down discussions with the players and coaches. These unique new platforms could be sponsored by advertisers to help support the programs. On a smaller scale, using video broadcasting like social media platforms, Zoom, or Skype for private meetings with donors could also result in revenue-generating experiences. Teams could engage small restricted groups for private Q&A sessions with coaches or players, or even for broadcasts from the stands during a game. Personnel involved from professional leagues all the way down to high school sports teams have offered various types of training sessions via video software while social distancing. Schools may want to consider offering an exclusive experience of training with coaches and staff over video that could be accomplished by subscription or one-time enrollment fee.

    While the return of sports during this pandemic raises issues, it is a not a question of if live spots will resume, but when and how.  When collegiate athletic events resume, collegiate athletic programs should be ready to offer fans and sponsors opportunities to participate and reconnect through traditional experiences (as tailored for pandemic concerns), as well as new platforms.

  • Tuesday, June 9th

    Tuesday, June 9, 2020

     

    The Key Role of Safety and Health Plans

    Prepared by: Timothy J. O’Brien, Partner Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion, LLC

    Corporate partnerships represent an important revenue source for sports/entertainment venues and events. But the recent

    social distancing guidelines arising from the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to strain those partnerships. From the vendors’ perspective, financial benefits that they expected to receive from sponsoring an event or venue will disappear completely due to event cancellations. And even when the games and events come back, they will almost certainly take a different form than what the vendor expected when it entered into the contract, whether due to lower attendance, aversion to food and beverage stands or otherwise. From the venues’ perspective, not only will they have to navigate lost ticket revenue, they will also face pleas from their vendors seeking to reduce or eliminate guaranteed payments in response to corporate directives to minimize discretionary spending.

    While many of these disputes will result in renegotiated contracts, some have resulted in litigation. In one recent filing, the organization that puts on the popular X4 Experience Management Summit (“X4”) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, preemptively filed a declaratory judgment action against one of their partners that had agreed to secure the participation of the band “The Killers” at the event. See Qualtrics, LLC. v. SME Entertainment Group, LLC., Case No. 20-CV-00164, complaint filed, 2020 WL 1182395 (D. Utah Mar. 12, 2020). The plaintiff cancelled the event, which was scheduled for March 10-13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency declaration from the State of Utah. Although many of the X4 vendors seemed to accept the plaintiff’s decision to cancel the event, not so for The Killers. They demanded to perform and be paid. Although the key terms of the parties’ contract were redacted from the complaint, the unredacted allegations indicate that the plaintiff was relying on a provision of the contract that allowed the plaintiff to use its “good faith discretion” in deciding to cancel the event and refuse to pay vendors. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit before the defendant answered, suggesting that perhaps the defendant recognized that it faced an uphill battle in light of the “good faith discretion” provision.

    Declaratory judgment claims like the ones asserted in Qualtrics, LLC will likely be the exception rather than the rule, as most vendors and venues will find renegotiation a more attractive option than litigation. Before any negotiation, however, vendors and venues should analyze how their contracts stand up to scrutiny under relevant state contract law and common law defenses. Performing this analysis on the front end of a negotiation will be useful in evaluating the parties’ respective bargaining positions and provide a leg up if a negotiation takes a turn towards litigation. Some common defenses are described below.

    • Force MajeureForce majeure provisions are common clauses in commercial agreements and are likely to be the hook upon which many parties seeking to avoid contractual obligations hang their hat. These provisions generally create a basis for non-performance (in whole or part) if a party is unable to fulfill its contractual obligations and/or liabilities due to events that are out of their control and that the parties could not reasonably foresee at the time they entered into the contract. But simply having a force majeure provision in a contract does not mean that the provision will apply to COVID-19 or excuse a parties’ performance. The precise wording in the agreement is critical.
    • Doctrine of Frustration of Purpose in the Absence of a Force Majeure Clause. Under this common law principle, a party may be discharged from performing a contractual obligation that has been rendered impossible if the party neither assumed the risk of impossibility nor could have acted to prevent the event rendering the performance impossible. Again, whether this defense is available will depend on several factors, including how courts have applied the doctrine (narrowly or broadly) and whether the parties’ performance has been rendered impossible or merely inconvenient or more expensive.
    • Doctrine of Supervening Impracticability in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 261. In jurisdictions that follow Section 261, when a party’s performance is made impracticable (not impossible) “by the occurrence of an event the non-occurrence of which was a basic assumption on which the contract was made, [their] duty to render that performance is discharged, unless the language or the circumstances indicate the contrary.” Like the doctrine of impossibility, whether the doctrine of impracticability applies will depend on numerous factors.
    • Games Not Played / Unavailable Benefits Provision. These provisions address situations where a particular bargained-for benefit is no longer available (e.g. minimum number of home games or concerts) due to circumstances beyond the control of either party. The remedy under these provisions is usually a mutually-agreed upon compensation structure for the lost benefit or a pro-rata reduction rebate.

    Ultimately, disputes between venues and vendors will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Success in negotiations or litigation may depend upon the preparation one has with its attorney prior to taking any defensive or offensive steps.

  • Tuesday, June 2nd

    Tuesday, June 2, 2020

     

    How COVID-19 Is Likely To Strain Sports and Entertainment Partnerships

    Prepared by: Brian Lamping, Partner (St. Louis), Bob Wallace Jr., Partner (St. Louis), and Melissa Gold, Associate (Chicago), Thompson Coburn LLP

    Corporate partnerships represent an important revenue source for sports/entertainment venues and events. But the recent social distancing guidelines arising from the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to strain those partnerships. From the vendors’ perspective, financial benefits that they expected to receive from sponsoring an event or venue will disappear completely due to event cancellations. And even when the games and events come back, they will almost certainly take a different form than what the vendor expected when it entered into the contract, whether due to lower attendance, aversion to food and beverage stands or otherwise. From the venues’ perspective, not only will they have to navigate lost ticket revenue, they will also face pleas from their vendors seeking to reduce or eliminate guaranteed payments in response to corporate directives to minimize discretionary spending.

    While many of these disputes will result in renegotiated contracts, some have resulted in litigation. In one recent filing, the organization that puts on the popular X4 Experience Management Summit (“X4”) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, preemptively filed a declaratory judgment action against one of their partners that had agreed to secure the participation of the band “The Killers” at the event. See Qualtrics, LLC. v. SME Entertainment Group, LLC., Case No. 20-CV-00164, complaint filed, 2020 WL 1182395 (D. Utah Mar. 12, 2020). The plaintiff cancelled the event, which was scheduled for March 10-13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency declaration from the State of Utah. Although many of the X4 vendors seemed to accept the plaintiff’s decision to cancel the event, not so for The Killers. They demanded to perform and be paid. Although the key terms of the parties’ contract were redacted from the complaint, the unredacted allegations indicate that the plaintiff was relying on a provision of the contract that allowed the plaintiff to use its “good faith discretion” in deciding to cancel the event and refuse to pay vendors. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit before the defendant answered, suggesting that perhaps the defendant recognized that it faced an uphill battle in light of the “good faith discretion” provision.

    Declaratory judgment claims like the ones asserted in Qualtrics, LLC will likely be the exception rather than the rule, as most vendors and venues will find renegotiation a more attractive option than litigation. Before any negotiation, however, vendors and venues should analyze how their contracts stand up to scrutiny under relevant state contract law and common law defenses. Performing this analysis on the front end of a negotiation will be useful in evaluating the parties’ respective bargaining positions and provide a leg up if a negotiation takes a turn towards litigation. Some common defenses are described below.

    • Force MajeureForce majeure provisions are common clauses in commercial agreements and are likely to be the hook upon which many parties seeking to avoid contractual obligations hang their hat. These provisions generally create a basis for non-performance (in whole or part) if a party is unable to fulfill its contractual obligations and/or liabilities due to events that are out of their control and that the parties could not reasonably foresee at the time they entered into the contract. But simply having a force majeure provision in a contract does not mean that the provision will apply to COVID-19 or excuse a parties’ performance. The precise wording in the agreement is critical.
    • Doctrine of Frustration of Purpose in the Absence of a Force Majeure Clause. Under this common law principle, a party may be discharged from performing a contractual obligation that has been rendered impossible if the party neither assumed the risk of impossibility nor could have acted to prevent the event rendering the performance impossible. Again, whether this defense is available will depend on several factors, including how courts have applied the doctrine (narrowly or broadly) and whether the parties’ performance has been rendered impossible or merely inconvenient or more expensive.
    • Doctrine of Supervening Impracticability in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 261. In jurisdictions that follow Section 261, when a party’s performance is made impracticable (not impossible) “by the occurrence of an event the non-occurrence of which was a basic assumption on which the contract was made, [their] duty to render that performance is discharged, unless the language or the circumstances indicate the contrary.” Like the doctrine of impossibility, whether the doctrine of impracticability applies will depend on numerous factors.
    • Games Not Played / Unavailable Benefits Provision. These provisions address situations where a particular bargained-for benefit is no longer available (e.g. minimum number of home games or concerts) due to circumstances beyond the control of either party. The remedy under these provisions is usually a mutually-agreed upon compensation structure for the lost benefit or a pro-rata reduction rebate.

    Ultimately, disputes between venues and vendors will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Success in negotiations or litigation may depend upon the preparation one has with its attorney prior to taking any defensive or offensive steps.

  • Monday, June 1st

    Monday, June 1, 2020

     

    College Athletes, COVID-19 Exposure, and Potential Liability

    Prepared by: Michael R. Phillips, Partner, and David D. Leishman, Senior Counsel, McGuireWoods LLP

    The majority of colleges and universities that have announced plans for fall 2020 have announced that they plan to hold in-person classes on campus.  Although the extent to which collegiate athletics will also resume in fall 2020 is still unclear, some athletic directors and school presidents have already announced that athletes will return to campus for team activities as early as this week.  Late this past month, however, NCAA President Mark Emmert opined that the breadth of collegiate sports programs and number of collegiate athletes make it “almost inevitable” that some athletes will contract COVID-19.

    In this regard, schools must carefully assess the risk of COVID-19 exposure to athletes, and potential liability as they decide when and how to resume athletic activities.  If athletes become infected, schools may face claims alleging that they failed to take proper precautions to prevent exposure.  Schools have several defenses to such claims, including assumption of risk and waiver, but schools are more likely to avoid liability if they implement specific measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission during athletic practices and competitions.

    What duty do schools owe to protect student athletes from COVID-19? While schools do not have a blanket duty to protect their students from all harms, some courts have imposed upon schools a heightened obligation to protect student athletes.  In California, for example, courts have recognized a special relationship, and special duties, between a school and students engaged in activities closely related to the school’s delivery of educational services, and that athletics are such activities. Other courts have recognized that a school owes, at minimum, a duty not to increase the risk of harm to athletes in competition. We are aware of no cases addressing a school’s obligation to protect an athlete from communicable disease, but to avoid COVID-19 liability to athletes the school should be prepared to demonstrate that it took reasonable steps to prevent transmission during athletic events including practices and competitions.

    Assumption of risk provides one potential defense to COVID-19 claims by student athletes. Generally, assumption of risk bars liability to athletes for injuries arising from the risks inherent in a sport. For example, schools have successfully raised assumption of risk as a defense where athletes have been injured while sliding into base, tackling in football, or falling during cheerleading routines. Courts have not had an opportunity to determine the extent to which COVID-19 exposure is inherent in athletic practice or competition. Assumption of risk is likely to be a stronger defense in contact sports that, by their nature, preclude social distancing and involve likely exchange of respiratory droplets. Assumption of risk may be a less effective defense in sports such as tennis or fencing, where athletes can maintain separation. In any case, to successfully assert an assumption of risk defense, a school should be able to show that it took reasonable measures to limit potential exposure in its facilities and activities, apart from the exposure inherent in the athletic activity itself.

    A valid waiver and release may also provide a defense to COVID-19 claims by student athletes. Schools should update their waiver/release agreement forms to address the risk of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, or require athletes to sign a stand-alone COVID-19 waiver/release. The waiver/release form should also acknowledge that the athlete assumes the risk of contracting COVID-19. As a waiver is generally not effective in cases of aggravated negligence or gross misconduct, the school should – again – be prepared to demonstrate that its efforts to prevent COVID-19 transmission were at least reasonable.

    Businesses, like schools, face the challenge of re-opening and resuming operations in a manner that limits potential legal claims for coronavirus exposure. State workers’ compensation remedies generally provide an exclusive remedy for employees sickened at their place of work, but it is generally established that student athletes are not “employees” of their institutions. For example, attempts to hold universities liable for not paying wages to athletes have failed as collegiate athletes are not “employees” of their schools under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Department of Labor has also indicated that student athletes are not “employees” under the FLSA. So workers’ compensation exclusivity will not protect schools from civil claims by student athletes.

    Thus, to limit potential liability and strengthen possible defenses including assumption of risk and waiver, schools should implement specific measures to protect their student athletes from COVID-19 transmission. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control for business and institutions of higher education, while not specific to student athletes, provides a starting point for possible exposure prevention measures. Such measures will be specific to the school and the activity in question, but may include:

    • Frequent COVID-19 testing of athletes, coaches and athletic department staff;
    • Check athletes’ temperatures as they enter a facility for practice or competition and do not admit athletes with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher;
    • Require athletes to check their own temperature at home and certify that they are symptom-free before participating in any practice or competition;
    • Provide an avenue for athletes to report COVID-19 symptoms and a response/isolation protocol for such reports;
    • Quarantine, testing and contact tracing procedures for athletes or staff members who test positive for COVID-19;
    • Develop social distancing protocols for team activities, including practices and meetings, and individual workouts;
    • Increased hand hygiene, including installation of hand sanitizer at key facility entry points and education on frequent washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
    • Require athletes to wear face coverings at all times, except where the nature of the activity in question renders it impossible (such as while swimming);
    • Increase cleaning and sterilizing of locker rooms and equipment;
    • Limit access to team showering facilities, or require athletes to shower at home;
    • Close saunas, steam rooms, pools and other communal treatment areas;
    • Limit sharing of equipment;
    • Ensure that each athlete has his or her own water bottle and does not share it with others;
    • Discourage high fives, group hugs, and other celebrations involving physical contact;
    • Permit athletic department staff to work remotely if possible;
    • Limit travel and minimize interaction with other travelers during travel to the extent possible;
    • Avoid communal meals especially where food or serving implements will be shared among team members;
    • Enforce social distancing requirements outside of athletic facilities and specifically prohibit athletes from high risk environments such as house parties, bars and nightclubs;
    • Update waiver/release agreement forms to address COVID-19

    For more information on this topic, please contact one of the authors of this article.

  • Thursday, May 28th

    Monday, June 1, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Virtual Forum Discusses Legal and Cultural Impacts of COVID-19 on College Sports

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association

    Webinar Recording HERE

    On Wednesday, with more than 900 registrants on its virtual forum, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar for its member institutions discussing the legal and cultural impacts of COVID-19 on college sports. The panel, one of LEAD1’s most illustrious since it started hosting its virtual forums on a regular basis in late March,  featured a current member of Congress, Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27), a former member, Tom McMillen (LEAD1 President and CEO), Richard Giller (Partner at Pillsbury Law) and Peter Carfagna (Chairman at Magis, LCC and Professor at the University of Miami School of Law).

    Giller opened the panel by discussing the impact of event cancellation and business interruption insurance policies on college sports. The key takeaway from this segment is that perhaps now, more than ever, athletics departments, colleges and universities should be more aware of the various circumstances that could shut down business in the United States (e.g., force majeure). To this end, certain types of insurance such as event cancellation (which could cover lost profits, ticket sales, sponsorship revenues etc.) and business interruption insurance (i.e., an insurance claim due to a government mandate) could help mitigate against the effects of future shutdowns.

    The core of the webinar, however, focused on the legal implications with respect to the return of college sports. Rep. Shalala urged for a national standard (e.g., at least minimum policies) regarding medical testing and procedures for college sports. In this regard, the panel agreed that there may be certain privacy issues that arise if a student-athlete were to contract COVID-19. While student-athletes likely would be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (federal law), institutions may not be protected.

    The panel also addressed the direct impact of COVID-19 on student-athletes and coaches returning to their sports. For instance, what if a student-athlete is hesitant to play his or her sport until minimum testing and other standards are in place? What if a coach, who has a preexisting medical condition, believes it may be too risky to return? In this vein, because testing regimes are likely to be different across the country, Rep. Shalala recommended that college sports (conferences, institutions and the NCAA), should develop a national standard for meeting certain minimum testing standards (and that there may be the need for different standards based on each particular sport). With respect to the coaching question, while the position of a coach in deciding whether to return (from a business standpoint) would likely depend on the language of his or her contract, there are possible measures, from a health standpoint, that coaches could take to mitigate against the possible risks of returning (such as social distancing from players (i.e., coaching from the press box)).

    The panel further discussed various liability protections for athletics departments against the possibility of COVID-19 lawsuits. Given that the United States is the most litigious society in the world, the panel agreed that the possibility of lawsuits in college sports are inevitable. To this end, while the panel reiterated that their recommendations do not constitute “legal advice,” the panel agreed on several practical actions that athletics departments can take to protect against potential lawsuits.

    First, athletics departments could, for example, implement various waiver policies such as “assumption of the risk” provisions on the back of game tickets (similar to the measures Major League Baseball (MLB) teams implement on their tickets due to the risks of foul balls). Second, athletics departments should follow any established guidelines (whether developed by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (CVC) or through state and local governments); this could, in turn, help athletics departments demonstrate that they have adhered to a certain “duty of care” potentially established in litigation. Third, while there have been federal and state efforts to establish potential safe harbor provisions for colleges and universities from liability due to COVID-19, the other practical recommendation (back to insurance) is that athletics directors, together with inside counsel (and potentially outside counsel) should review their current insurance agreements (and renewal dates for those insurance plans) to determine any potential additional coverages needed.

    The panel further highlighted some of the financial implications on the future of college sports.  The panel acknowledged that while playing football (and other college sports) without fans may happen (especially due to the inevitability of lawsuits), smaller schools within LEAD1 that mostly have fewer resources (traditionally known as “Group of Five” schools), particularly rely on live attendance revenues as opposed to “Power Five” schools (larger institutions with traditionally greater resources), which may have more significant television rights agreements. The silver lining, however, depending upon individual schools’ broadcasting agreements, is that their television revenues (and associated revenues such as advertising) may increase due to more fans watching from home. In general, however, all LEAD1 institutions rely on donations and student fees to help provide thousands of opportunities for student-athletes.

    Finally, with respect to the cultural impact of the pandemic, varied state regulations could have a tremendous impact on the future of college sports including team travel. The panel also noted that, in the next several years, there could be a decline in youth sports participation and that there may need to be the short term elimination of established college traditions during game day (such as autograph opportunities for fans)

    Webinar Recording HERE

  • Thursday, May 21st

    Thursday, May 21, 2020

     

    LEAD1 Association Virtual Forum “How COVID-19 Will Change College Sports” Hosts More Than 1,000 Participants

    WEBINAR RECORDING LINK HERE

    On Wednesday, with an audience of more than 1,000 attendees, LEAD1 Associated hosted a webinar for its member institutions discussing how COVID-19 will change college sports. The panel, moderated by LEAD1 President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tom McMillen, included Bob Bowlsby, Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, Jack Swarbrick, Director of Athletics at the University of Notre Dame, Martin Jarmond, Director of Athletics at Boston College (who was recently named the Director of Athletics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)), Kathy Beauregard, Director of Athletics at Western Michigan University and Amy Perko, the CEO of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

    First, the panel highlighted some of the expected lasting changes in college sports from COVID-19. The panel, for example, made the analogy to America’s involvement in the War on Terror – prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks – which resulted in a dramatic change in our nation’s policies about safety and vigilance. Related to COVID-19, college sports and all of its stakeholders will need to learn how to coexist with the virus, and, like the changes that resulted from 9/11, our nation’s concerns and ability to function will hopefully improve over time. In this vein, athletics departments will need to change the way they operate particularly as it pertains to public assembly (e.g., live sporting events) and aligning more strategically with institutional leadership (beyond the athletics department).

    Even without the pandemic, the panel underscored the current transformational period in college sports due to the recent appellate decision in the Alston case (see Tuesday’s LEAD1 COVID-19 report for more details) and changes on the horizon with regard to NCAA name, image, and likeness (NIL) and transfer rules. The panel even projected the possible closing of institutions in the next several years and the virus’s effect on Olympic sports (such as water polo, swimming and gymnastics) if college sports teams continue to be cut. In addition, some of the panel suggested that the pandemic could slow the arms race in college sports with respect to building facilities and hiring and compensating athletics personnel.

    Second, regarding the return of college football, the panel outlined some of the various risks involved and the inevitably of positive tests upon return. Some mitigation strategies include developing plans with respect to treating positive tests, disinfecting athletics facilities and generally broadening protocols upon entrance into campus. In this regard, the panel suggested the need for certain waivers as it pertains to various NCAA bylaws when students return to campus. Ultimately, however, the decision to play football in the fall will be largely based upon the return of the general student population to campus.

    Third, the panel generally covered a variety of other topics such as the importance of content to keep fans engaged, the possibility of placing microphones on coaches during games to improve the fan experience (while they are away from the venue), the effect of COVID-19 on the next round of television contracts and the ethical and societal questions that arise with respect to utilizing health resources, such as testing equipment, for the return of sports.

    WEBINAR RECORDING LINK HERE 

  • Tuesday, May 19th

    Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

    United States Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit Adds Fuel to Fire for LEAD1 Athletics Departments During COVID-19 Pandemic

    Prepared by LEAD1 Association

    As if a global pandemic is not enough to keep LEAD1 athletics directors busy these days, yesterday, a California federal appeals court just added some more fuel to the fire. On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 9thU.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s ruling that the NCAA cannot limit educational-related benefits that its member institutions may offer students who play Football Bowl Subdivision football and Division I basketball. Accordingly, under the ruling, the NCAA cannot limit compensation or benefits to student-athletes related to education such as scholarships to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees, equipment like computers or tutoring. It is worth noting, however, that the panel, declined to broaden the district judge’s ruling to include all NCAA compensation limits, including those payments untethered to education.

    But, by removing all limits that are tethered to education, the Ninth Circuit has thrown a monkey wrench into college sports. Conferences will have the choice in determining the restrictions on educational benefits. This means that some conferences may permit their schools to offer greater scholarship aid than institutions with fewer financial resources.

    The choices facing the NCAA seem limited to living with the decision, appealing to the Supreme Court or seeking relief from Congress.

    Living with the decision poses many problems. With schools having different scholarship limitations, how will the NCAA address enforcement issues with respect to promoting and policing consistency upon member schools? Could schools in certain conferences, spending more money than others, exacerbate the arms race in college sports? For instance, some schools could offer graduate degrees, while other schools may not be able to afford to do so. This is problematic given that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, only approximately 20 Division I schools a year made more money than they spent, and, costs have continued to rise. In this vein, could educational benefits without limits be used abusively in recruiting and retaining student-athletes?

    Will the NCAA appeal the Ninth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court of the United States? If the Supreme Court heard the case (which is not guaranteed), the Court, could, perhaps siding with the plaintiffs, remove all compensation restrictions, including NCAA limits on compensation unrelated to education.

    Finally, seeking relief from Congress through an antitrust exemption to overturn the Alston decision will be complicated by the current NIL Congressional deliberations and the fact that the country this fall is facing Presidential and Congressional elections that could shift the balance of power and make legislating relief even more difficult.

    It is worth mentioning that based upon Monday’s decision, student-athletes may also be able to receive cash or cash-equivalent awards based on academic performance, however, with some constraints if the NCAA chose to cap such awards (the Court noted, however, that such cap for academic awards would have to be at least $5,600 a year).

    So, there are still many questions to be answered, including Title IX, taxes and others, and this will take time to sort out particularly if the decision is appealed to the Supreme Court or Congress. Only time will tell, but we, at LEAD1, will keep you informed.

  • Monday, May 18th

    Monday, May 18, 2020

     

    New NBA G League Program Begins to Challenge NCAA Men’s Basketball Hold on Top Prospects

    Prepared by: Christopher Conniff, Partner, Ropes & Gray

    Here is an article by Christopher Conniff, a Partner in Ropes & Gray’s Sports Law Practice, that explains the NBA G League’s impact on LEAD1 athletics departments.

    Since the inception of the NBA G League there has been concern that the creation of this “minor league” would diminish the enormously popular (and profitable) NCAA Division I men’s basketball program by luring top high school basketball prospects away from college. Those fears are now heightened with the NBA’s recent addition of a one-year “developmental” program for top players, which offers high school seniors a lucrative alternative to playing for a Division I program for a year until they become eligible for the NBA Draft. As described in more detail below, this new G League program will pay top prospects up to $500,000; provide them with special professional coaching and training outside of the league’s traditional team structure; and allow them to avoid the challenges of the NCAA’s complicated eligibility requirements. Not surprisingly, this G League program has already caused a shift in the recruiting landscape as a number of top prospects have foregone college and committed to the program. These prospects have included Jalen Green, a potential number 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft; Isaiah Todd, a 5-star forward who de-committed from the University of Michigan; and Daishen Nix, a 5-star point guard who de-committed from UCLA.

    New Incentives for Top Prospects to Join the G League

    The G League, formerly known as the National Basketball Development League, or the NBA D-League, is the NBA’s official minor league. Having started in the 2001/02 season with eight teams, the league now has 28 teams, all of which are affiliated with an NBA team. Unlike minor league baseball or hockey, the G League was not thought of as a place to develop young players. Players selected in the NBA Draft went directly to their NBA teams, and the G League consisted largely of journeymen and unsigned players looking to showcase their talent. As a result, few players opted to play in the G League during their first year after high school while they waited to be eligible for the NBA Draft. Instead, top prospects traditionally chose to play in college and more recently headed overseas to play professionally. In this regard, LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, both top 2020 NBA Draft prospects, shunned the G League route to play in Australia, where players can make mid-six-figures in salary, a significant bump over the G League’s traditional $35,000 salary.

    Recognizing this trend, the NBA and G League recently announced the creation of a new program for these prospects – The G League Professional Path. Under this new one-year program, elite prospects who are at least 18 years old but not yet eligible for the NBA Draft receive a salary of at least $125,000 for participating in a five-month season. In addition, players will be eligible for bonuses for meeting certain benchmarks such as participating in community events and attending life-skills programs overseen by the G League. As an added incentive, the NBA is providing a scholarship program for those who wish to continue their education after retiring from basketball. Aside from the monetary benefits, the participants will receive professional coaching and train with veterans who will provide mentoring about life in the NBA. To facilitate player training and development, participants will not play a typical G League schedule of 50 games. Instead, this team of elite prospects and veterans will play only 10 to 12 games against G League teams, plus games against foreign teams and NBA academy teams.1 Through these games, it is expected that the top prospects will receive ample scouting from NBA teams.

    One of the biggest draws, however, may be that players joining the G League can avoid the complicated and arduous NCAA eligibility requirements facing a Division I player. Unlike in college, G League players are free to hire agents, pursue endorsement deals, and profit off their name, image, and likeness (“NIL”). For example, Green is expected to sign a seven-figure sneaker deal during his time in the G League. This program may be of particular interest for high school prospects this year as it is unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect the college calendar in 2020/21.

    Although still in its infancy, the G League’s Professional Path program may drastically alter the landscape of NCAA Division I men’s basketball, particularly among members of the “Power 5” conferences. First, coaches will now find themselves not only competing against each other for the most talented prospects each year but also competing with the financial lure of the G League. Unfortunately, this could exacerbate the risks of corruption and the provision of improper benefits to these recruits. Athletic Department compliance teams will need to be laser-focused on this increased risk and step up monitoring and enforcement efforts while recruiting top prospects. With the G League able to offer lucrative deals to top high school prospects both before and after they commit to a college program, compliance teams must ensure that those associated with the athletic program – including coaches, boosters, and sponsors – do not attempt to counter with financial offers to these players, including after they have committed. Second, schools will need to ensure that they are offering similar career counseling and other important skills programs for their student-athletes. Finally, coaches may also be faced with players who have committed to their school but then bolt for the G League’s new program. Although it is unclear whether the G League will require prospects to accept an offer to join the program by a certain date, it is possible that elite freshmen could change their minds and join the G League even after they have arrived on campus. This dynamic could require college coaches to continue to placate top recruits who may suddenly have another viable option – even after they have officially enrolled in school.

    The new G League program also may prove to be a further catalyst for reform initiatives already underway to loosen the NCAA’s restrictions on athletes receiving benefits based on their NIL. In fact, the NCAA recently announced proposals to allow athletes to profit from their NIL, including the ability to sign deals with third parties for promotional activities and to be compensated for outside business deals. If these NIL reforms are enacted and college athletes are able to profit from their NIL, the value proposition of playing in college for one year would certainly increase.

    The effects on college basketball of the G League’s new program remain to be seen and will be dictated largely by the number of top prospects who pursue this path. Depending on the extent to which the G League pulls players from the collegiate ranks, the new program may dramatically alter the college basketball landscape by changing who is being recruited and potentially elevating the play of top teams filled with athletes who develop together over multiple years.

    _________________________

    1 https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29043828/sources-top-high-school-player-jalen-green-enter-nba-g-league-pathway

  • Thursday, May 14th

    Thursday, May 14, 2020

     

    COVID-19 and Title IX: Ramifications of Budget Cuts on Gender Equity

    Prepared by: Kaitlyn Collyer, Senior Advisor, CCHA

    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a tidal wave of unforeseen consequences around the globe. Most of us never could have predicted a March with a very different kind of madness, one absent sneakers squeaking on wood floors and goosebump-inducing comebacks fit for One Shining Moment.

    While we all do our best to stay at home and flatten the curve, we also must consider the various scenarios that may play out as the country begins to open back up. As a result of the cancellation of the men’s and women’s postseason basketball tournaments, the NCAA expects to distribute about one-third of the originally budgeted distributions to its member institutions. Athletic departments, who rely on these funds as a vital part of their operating budgets, may also see less income in terms of gate receipts, ad revenue and donations.

    Given these realities, athletic departments are reflecting on where they can trim the fat of their, in some cases, already lean budgets.

    In working through these scenarios, athletic departments should take care to consider the various Title IX ramifications their decisions may have.

    Title IX is a federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs that receive Federal financial assistance. Athletics programs also fall under Title IX jurisdiction. Specifically, Title IX regulations outline three basic buckets that apply to athletics:

    1. Participation opportunities. Women and men must be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports.
    2. Scholarships. Female and male student-athletes must receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and
    3. “Laundry List” of Treatment Areas. Female and male student-athletes must receive equal treatment in the provisions of:
      1. Equipment and supplies
      2. Scheduling of games and practice times;
      3. Travel and daily allowance/per dime;
      4. Access to tutoring;
      5. Coaching;
      6. Locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities;
      7. Medical and training facilities and services;
      8. Housing and dining facilities and services;
      9. Publicity and promotions;
      10. Support services and
      11. Recruitment of student-athletes

    Institutions are considering everything from reducing travel budgets to rearranging scheduled opponents to, at the most extreme, eliminating sport programs all together. Even mild budget cuts can have Title IX impacts that should be fully vetted prior to finalizing any decisions.

    For example, if an institution cuts costs in its travel or marketing budgets, these decisions may affect whether male and female student-athletes receive equal treatment in the “laundry list” areas outlined above. Further, if an institution decides to only host certain sport seasons or to shorten scheduled seasons, this may have an impact on participation opportunities (the first prong of Title IX) as well as the scheduling of games treatment area (the third prong of Title IX).

    While we are certainly in uncharted territory, it’s not clear whether Title IX requirements will be relaxed simply because an institution is facing financial strain. As discussed in previous LEAD1 COVID-19 reports, we will continue to monitor.

  • Tuesday, May 12th

    Tuesday, May 12, 2020

     

    Arrington Settlement: Implications for Concussion Policy and Guidelines

    Prepared by: James R. Borchers, MD, MPH, President & Co-Founder, The U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a pending deadline (May 18, 2020) for member institutions to comply with certification requirements regarding terms for the Arrington class settlement agreement. These requirements are specific to three areas in the management of concussion in the student athlete; return to sport, academic accommodations and instruction and education requirements. NCAA member institutions will be required to have policy and guidelines that are specific to each of these areas. Failure to have adequate policy, guidelines and management plans will increase liability and risk to institutions participating in the settlement.

    With respect to the requirements for return to sport following concussion, the following criteria must be met in order for an institution to successfully complete the certification process.

    1. Every student athlete must undergo preseason baseline testing for each sport the athlete participates in on an annual basis. This must occur prior to participation in any practice or competition for the year when testing occurs. It is important that each institution is consistent with the method of preseason testing, how this is performed, documented and with compliance regarding this testing in all student athletes.
    2. Any student athlete diagnosed with a concussion must be prohibited from returning to play (including all training activity, practice or competition) on the same day the diagnosis of concussion is made. A clear definition of “diagnosis of concussion” must be applied for every athlete evaluated by medical personnel. The removal of an athlete from a practice or game for a suspected concussion may meet this definition.
    3. A physician must clear any student athlete diagnosed with a concussion prior to returning to play to include any practice and competition. Protocol for clearance from a physician and a quality assurance mechanism are required to make sure this requirement is met for all athletes returning to practice or game following a concussion. Physician clearance is recommended for BOTH return to practice and game participation.
    4. The institution must provide medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussion at all games for contact sports (men’s and women’s) to include football, lacrosse, wrestling, ice hockey, field hockey, soccer and basketball. Institutions will be required to define “appropriate medical personnel” and “adequate training” as required by the settlement. This includes requirements for certification and recertification by the institution for the requirements of diagnosis, management and treatment of concussion.
    5. The institution must provide medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussion at all practices for contact sports (men’s and women’s) to include football, lacrosse, wrestling, ice hockey, field hockey, soccer and basketball. In addition to the recommendations stated immediately above, institutions will be required to determine what constitutes a practice and will need to provide coverage for ALL practice activities regardless of location (i.e. home or away).
    6. The NCAA will be required to provide institutions educational material for faculty regarding academic accommodations for student-athletes that have suffered a concussion. Institutions will need to coordinate the distribution of these materials and compliance from faculty on receiving these materials and being responsible for the content. Institutions will also need to ensure these accommodations are available to student-athletes that sustain a concussion.
    7. Institutions will be required to provide annual NCAA approved concussion education and training to their student-athletes, coaches and athletic trainers prior to the beginning of every competitive season. This education requirement is actually extended to strength and conditioning personnel, other medical personnel (team physicians) and athletic administrators via the Inter Association Recommendations for the Prevention of Catastrophic Injury and Death in Collegiate Athletes, which was approved as association wide policy by the NCAA August 1, 2019. Institutions should review this document and ensure all education requirements are met.

     

    The previous requirements are applied for institutions participating in the Arrington settlement at all levels of NCAA competition (1,2 and 3). All certifying institutions must have policy, guidelines and management plans that are specific to these requirements and need to be in place if the institution is certifying compliance as part of the Arrington settlement. These institution specific plans must incorporate best practices regarding the management, diagnosis and treatment of concussion in a student athlete and should be reviewed and monitored at a minimum on an annual basis. Further, it will be imperative that operationalizing the requirements to meet these standards is monitored for compliance on a frequent basis. Quality assurance around these recommendations will be essential to successful implementation, reporting and compliance required by the settlement. Collaboration with external experts in concussion management, athletic healthcare administration, quality assurance, event reporting and athlete safety is recommended to ensure all requirements are accounted for in policies and guidelines. External policy and guideline review, program implementation review and quality assurance review will help institutions reduce risk and liability regarding concussion in the student-athlete that is further amplified by the requirements of the Arrington settlement.

    Dr. Borchers is a Sports Medicine physician and an expert in Athletic Healthcare and Safety Administration. He is the President and Co-founder of the U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health (USCAH), an organization that collaborates with institutions and athletic organizations to optimize athletic healthcare and safety assessment, education and programming. To learn more about how USCAH can help institutions with these and other athletic healthcare and safety issues, please contact info@uscah.com.

  • Monday, May 4th

    Thursday, April 30, 2020

     

    LEAD1 Association’s Weekly Virtual “AD Town Hall Series” Discusses Managing in Uncertain Times

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association

    On Monday, LEAD1 Association (LEAD1) conducted its weekly virtual “Town Hall” session limited to LEAD1 member athletics directors. The session was led by a panel of LEAD1 athletics directors including Whit Babcock (Virginia Tech), Lisa Campos (University of Texas at San Antonio), Boo Corrigan (North Carolina State University), and Eddie Nuñez (University of New Mexico); the panelists  discussed how they are leading their athletics departments during these challenging times.

    In this vein, first, the panel discussed a timeline for football to be played in the fall such as highlighting a general “six-week” period that student-athletes would need to get ready before possibly playing a game. The panel agreed that to start the season as scheduled in early September, a decision for football would likely need to be made in early July.

    Second, the panel outlined some of their thoughts with regard to what a possible “new normal” in college sports could look like. For example, based upon recent success with respect to communicating via virtual technology (i.e., Zoom conferencing), athletics departments may continue to rely on such technology in the future, which could change areas like recruiting. In addition, based upon the current financial uncertainty in college sports, athletics departments may be less likely to offer long term contracts in the future and game operations (such as fan engagement and ticket scanning) may also change.

    Third, the panel emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive culture even during a time of great uncertainty, for example, by serving as a role model for students-athletes (such as following social distancing rules and attending virtual events on time) and offering virtual professional development opportunities for the entire athletics department (i.e., golf and cooking lessons). The panel further agreed that their individual deputy athletics directors have played an enormous role in helping their athletics departments maintain a positive culture.

    Finally, the panelists concluded their conversation by stating the importance of intercollegiate athletics for campuses at large (such as increasing campus enrollment statistics and serving as an outlet for people during hard times).

  • Thursday, April 30th

    Thursday, April 30, 2020

     

    Through the Storm: Strategic Planning to Navigate Rough Times

    Prepared by: Kyle Berry, Principal, Sendero Consulting and Tanner Gardner, Senior Associate AD & COO, Rice University

    This, too, shall pass.

    The old adage is getting a bit worn out these days as we hope that it remains true.

    Yet, we are here in the midst of an event that hit our world so quickly and so far out of left field that there was no way that anyone could have predicted the predicament or the impacts.

    We still do not know the full effect and downstream impacts of canceling games, championships, and seasons.

    For example, with additional eligibility granted for spring athletes, what are the impacts of future playing time on today’s underclassmen?  Will this lead to additional transfers?  How might this be impacted by new transfer rules?

    There are many effects and potential effects that need to be anticipated, analyzed, and addressed.

    But… this, too, shall pass.

    When it does, how will this derailment affect what you are doing within your athletic department?

    Looking into the future to a time when COVID-19 concerns are in the rear-view mirror, have your task lists changed?  Where should your focus be?  What was the impact on your current roadmap?

    The need to focus on academic and competitive success, student-athlete development, compliance, and resource generation are still there, and they must still be a priority.  This is where a strategic plan is most valuable by serving as a guide to decision making in both calm and turbulent times.

    A strategic plan is a high-level set of initiatives that is driven by priorities.  These initiatives align the athletic department and institution’s strategic objectives and vision, and they address risks and opportunities that your department is facing.

    Issues and distractions requiring immediate attention, such as NIL, new transfer rules, and COVID-19, will periodically arise with differing impacts and priorities.  These firefights might dictate that your timelines adjust as you reallocate resources to address these new issues.  However, when you have a well-defined strategic roadmap, you can make those adjustments without losing the focus of what your true goals and initiatives are to improve your athletic department.

    An important place to start is understanding the strategic vision for your athletic department and ensuring that it aligns with the vision of the institution.  For any strategic plan to be effective, it must gain the support of the institution’s leadership.  Then, follow a methodology to assess the current state, visualize initiatives to address issues and achieve your vision, and finally, lay out a plan to execute those initiatives.

    Assess

    The assessment continues the theme of gaining support from key people across the institution. Ask university senior administrators and faculty leadership for their perspectives on what is working in the athletic department and what can be improved.  Senior administrators may share perspectives on the importance of athletics as a means to unite the campus community and alumni, while faculty may have concerns of athletic demands conflicting with classroom instruction.  Probing questions should also certainly be asked of key athletic department personnel, student-athletes, donors, fans, and community leaders to uncover issues, opportunities, risks, and constraints.  Themes will naturally arise from the differing perspectives of a wide array of stakeholders.

    Visualize

    From those themes, determine initiatives that will move you toward your vision.  These initiatives may address issues, alleviate risks, and/or capitalize on opportunities.  They could include improvements to a tutoring program, marketing initiatives to improve local visibility and support, or the establishment of a program to monitor and improve athletes’ mental health.  At this point, keep those initiatives at a strategic level.  Getting too deep into tactical details at this stage can get you wrapped around the axle and stall the strategic planning process.  Those details will be hashed out during the execution of the strategy.

    Plan

    Finally, prioritize initiatives based on factors such as time sensitivity, visibility, risk relief, and cost-benefit analysis.  Be sure to factor dependencies on other initiatives into the chronological order.  Break down cost estimates by labor, capital, and operational expenses to determine funding needs and budget requirements.  Also, determine high-level resource plans and potential team needs.  Incorporating these considerations will shape the plan into an executable roadmap.

    Having a strategic plan in place with alignment from across the institution will serve as a rudder that will keep you steering toward your vision – even as competing factors arise.  As those factors may force you to adjust priorities and reallocate resources, you can do so without losing sight of your ultimate vision for success.  When this situation does indeed pass, you will be ready to continue driving forward toward your goals.

  • Wednesday, April 29th

    Wednesday, April 29, 2020

     

    LEAD1 Association Holds Financial Sustainability Webinar for Member Athletics Department Staff During COVID-19 Pandemic

     LEAD1 Virtual Forum Library (Recordings) HERE

    On Tuesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar catered to all LEAD1 member athletics staff discussing various strategies for athletics departments to survive the financial crisis with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar was led by Jonathan Bostros (Senior Associate AD & CFO; Texas Tech University), Jacque Bruns (Senior Associate AD & CFO; Oregon State University), Steven Bloom (Director, Government Relations; American Council on Education), Jonathan Fansmith (Director, Government Relations; American Council on Education), Steve Mermelstein (Director; RSM), and Ron Nahass (Director; RSM).The American Council on Education (ACE) began the webinar by highlighting some of the federal resources available to help athletics departments during the crisis such as the emergency assistance fund in the CARES Act, which provides direct aid to student-athletes (including food, transportation and housing) for emergency purposes. The ACE panelists made the critical point for athletics departments to consult with legal counsel to determine whether their athletics department may be considered a legally separate entity from the larger university, which would allow the athletics department to potentially apply for certain additional aid under the CARES Act. It is worth mentioning that the panel noted that individual stimulus checks to student-athletes under the CARES would not violate NCAA compliance rules (even if such compensation rendered student-athlete aid above the full cost-of-attendance).

    Next, RSM made several suggestions in order to address some of the uncertainty that now exists from a financial standpoint due to the pandemic. Some of these suggestions included forming a crisis “cash flow management team” comprised of various staff across campus to monitor, project and plan cash uses as well as conducting scenario planning analysis such as identifying the most likely scenario with respect to the return of sports and to develop and work that plan.

    Finally, Bostros and Bruns, the athletics department Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) on the call, identified various mitigation strategies for the current and next fiscal year due to the recent revenue reductions in college athletics (e.g., fewer donations, reduced student-fees, distribution reductions and canceled sporting events), including prioritizing “essential” needs for the rest of the year, instituting a hiring freeze, restructuring debt, senior staff “gifting back” to the university (not necessarily reducing salary), foregoing bonuses as a department, taking a differed approach to travel and putting funds in reserves. In addition, the CFO’s discussed various phases to such mitigation strategies such as first identifying revenue already lost in the short-term and then eventually preparing for any further economic downturn based on the possible scenarios in revenue sports (such as fear of public gatherings even if football is played in the fall).

     LEAD1 Virtual Forum Library (Recordings) HERE

  • Tuesday, April 28th

    Tuesday, April 28, 2020

     

    LEAD1 Association Continues Weekly Virtual “LEAD1 AD Town Hall” Series; Panel Discusses Strategies to Survive the Financial Crisis Under COVID-19

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association

    On Monday, LEAD1 Association (LEAD1) conducted its weekly virtual “Town Hall” session limited to LEAD1 member athletics directors. The session was led by a panel of LEAD1 directors including Tom Burman (University of Wyoming), Jamie Pollard (Iowa State University), Wood Selig (Old Dominion University) and Vince Tyra (University of Louisville).  With approximately half of LEAD1’s member athletics directors in attendance, the panel discussed various strategies for athletics departments to survive the financial crisis with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In this vein, the panelists discussed their individual experiences with regard to financial sustainability during the pandemic, for example, athletics administrators and coaches have taken pay cuts and made other tough decisions such as cutting sports and furloughing employees. The panel noted the possibility of further reductions depending upon the status of football for the fall (especially with expected shortfalls with respect to donations (even if football is played)). The panel made an interesting point that it can be more difficult for some athletics departments to manage financial issues depending upon the school’s geographic location (such as close proximity to certain industries that are struggling (i.e., the energy sector)).

    The panel also highlighted some of the key lessons learned from a future planning standpoint with respect to operating more efficiently in the future such as the increased importance now placed on virtual technology, monetizing the digital space and becoming less reliant on football revenue. Moreover, the panel generally discussed various considerations for students coming back to campus and the importance of football being played in order for other sports to continue.

    Other ideas included the possibility of incorporating clauses to mitigate risk in future contracts, extending the deadline for season ticket purchasers beyond what is normal, packaging tickets for sale differently than before, determining a percentage of the operational budget for each sport that could be cut, changing traditional recruiting practices and reducing charter travel.

    On Wednesday, the LEAD1-COVID 19 report will recap the other virtual event occurring this week, “Financial Sustainability During the COVID-19 Crisis,” catered to all athletics staff, including athletics department Chief Financial Officers and other constituents.

     

  • Monday, April 27th

    Monday, April 27th, 2020

    University of South Florida’s Michael Kelly Utilizes Virtual Technology to Engage with Fans and Donors During COVID-19 Pandemic

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association — as part of its new series sharing its members “Best Ideas” for coping with COVID-19.

    Despite the many obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented LEAD1 athletics departments, as we have highlighted in various LEAD1 COVID-19 reports over the past several weeks, this has not stopped many of our member athletics directors from working around the new challenges presented. The latest example is University of South Florida (USF) Director of Athletics, Michael Kelly, who, last week, via virtual technology, awarded one of USF’s biggest fans, a new car.

    Kelly had created a “Herd Perks” contest during the school year in which a student (fan) who attended the most USF sporting events during the year would receive a new car courtesy of USF’s partner car dealership. Before the pandemic, Kelly had planned to surprise the student with the new car in the school’s Student Union. Obviously, due to the pandemic, however, those plans changed. So, last week, Kelly decided to surprise the student in a virtual Zoom video conferencing call. Kelly, together with USF’s mascot, “Rocky the Bull,” virtually notified the student that he had won the new car and asked him for feedback to improve the USF student-athlete fan experience. But, Kelly did not stop there. He also invited every USF head coach to thank the student on the Zoom call for his dedication to USF athletics.

    “Since we could not surprise the student on campus, we did it virtually,” Kelly said. “In some ways, every coach popping on to the call would not have been possible in a normal scenario.”

    It is not only a new car that Kelly has delivered during this pandemic. He has also generally utilized virtual technology to enhance engagement with USF donors and the community at large. For example, Kelly has orchestrated multiple zoom calls each week for donors and season ticket holders to exclusively interact and connect with USF head coaches. According to Kelly, all USF head coaches have participated and many of the zoom sessions have been catered to donors living in some of the harder hit areas with respect to the pandemic. In addition, Kelly recently created a “thank-a-thon” where USF student-athletes call donors, thank and chat with them during this challenging time.

    “This is about connectivity, strengthening relationships and even starting new ones,” Kelly said. “On these calls, we do not ask our donors for a thing. It gives our fans a moment to talk about USF athletics, which serves as a distraction from other challenges many of us are facing.”

    All in all, Kelly’s message to his LEAD1 athletics director counterparts is to “use technology to every extent possible and to interact with your supporters in ways you otherwise would not be able to. People will remember if you cared and how you made them feel during these hard times,” Kelly said.

  • Wednesday, April 22nd

    Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

    Washington AD Jen Cohen Uses “Culture Managers” to Boost Program Morale During COVID-19 Pandemic

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association — as part of its new series sharing its members “Best Ideas” for coping with COVID-19.

    Leading an athletics department in one of the hardest hit areas in the country from the COVID-19 pandemic can present enormous challenges, including with respect to maintaining staff morale and culture. That is why the University of Washington Director of Athletics, Jen Cohen, created a program led by appointed “culture managers” to keep her athletics staff engaged during this challenging time.

    The culture manager group, which Cohen has coined her “Staff Council,” is essentially a small group of Washington athletics department employees that Cohen has appointed to develop programming in various areas to keep her staff engaged and focused during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Cohen’s Staff Council got to work and identified five areas in which her athletics staff may be impacted in a negative way due to the pandemic. These areas include maintaining physical and mental health, eating a proper diet, staying productive while working from home and creating activities for athletics staff with kids at home.

    In this regard, to help her staff incorporate these five areas into their daily routines, Cohen and her Staff Council created an “Intercollegiate Athletics Resource Guide,” filled with articles, videos, and links sorted into the five aforementioned categories (for staff members who want to browse resources on their own time) as well as an “Intercollegiate Athletics Weekly Challenge,” which lists specific goals for her staff to complete by the end of each week (such as attending athletics department virtual “community events” like Zoom sessions where people can interact with their colleagues and feel “normal” again). Each community event varies in theme, for example, one of the events was a cooking skills and nutrition class while another event was a “Book Club” gathering to discuss a self-improvement book that Cohen recently purchased for her athletics staff. Other examples of the weekly challenges include planning out meals for a week on paper, completing a Mindfulness Workshop and walking at least one mile at least three different days one week.

    “Our goal was to find ways to jump start people into a new routine by giving them some goals to shoot for and resources to utilize,” Cohen said. “Overall, we hope that these challenges give people a good boost to keep positive momentum going, while also knowing they are working on the same set of challenges as their colleagues. We hope this helps people stay active, involved and connected.”

    In short, Cohen has stressed her staff’s holistic development during this difficult time. To this end, she has the following message for her fellow athletics director counterparts.

    “To show up for others, we must first show up for ourselves. Adversity brings many blessings, and this crisis is a gift for all of us to evaluate how we thrive, instead of survive. It is time for us leaders to put our oxygen masks on first, to prioritize our whole self, and to bring courage and inspiration for others within our organization to do the same.  This is a time for growth, reflection, stillness, movement, reinvention, love and transformation. If we live it, we will lead it,” Cohen said.

  • Monday, April 20th

    Monday, April 20th, 2020

    How College Football Navigated The Spanish Flu

    Written by: Zach Bigalke

    In the age of coronavirus, what can we learn from 1918? Let’s look at how the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic impacted college football that year.

    As the novel coronavirus spreads its way around the globe, more people continue to self-quarantine in hopes of flattening the curve of transmission in their respective countries. People are engaging less in public, maintaining social distancing, and governments are stepping in to assist populations that have been forced home from work in the interest of public health.

    Part of the move to slow the advance of the coronavirus has been the cancellation of huge sporting events. March Madness ended in March sadness when the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The XFL canceled its first season after a reboot, and the MLS postponed games in its recently-started season. The NHL and NBA both suspended their campaigns with no guarantee that they might return to crown a champion in 2020.

    That’s just in the United States. Fans in other countries are dealing with the subsequent closure of soccer and all other sports around the globe. At a point when people are home more than ever, the shutdown of sports has created a massive void within our society.

    What we must all realize right now, though, is that things are going to become far more chaotic before we ever come back to some semblance of normalcy…

    What we must remember is that this is not the first time a pandemic has impacted the course of a college football season. When the Spanish flu — named not because it originated in Spain, but rather because neutral Spain was the first government to report honestly on the transmission of the virus — returned to the American populace in 1918, the college football season was thrown into a tailspin.

    With that in mind, how might the novel coronavirus coursing through the country impact the 2020 college football season? Let’s look back at 1918 to get a better understanding of why Kirshner and others are positing the theory that next season will be anything but business as usual.

    The background of the Spanish flu in the United States

    The first known case of the Spanish flu in the United States appeared in Kansas in January 1918. By March, when an infected cook at Fort Riley reported for duty, the virus found a population in close quarters through which it could spread rapidly. Within days of the cook’s return to base, more than 500 of the troops training at the military facility came down with the illness.

    By mid-March, the virus was already spreading across the map. On March 11, a case was confirmed in Queens, New York, more than 1300 miles from Fort Riley. At a point in medical history when we collectively knew far less about viral transmission than we do in the 21st century, the failure to take isolation measures to mitigate the spread of the illness allowed Spanish flu to proliferate.

    Over the summer, the rate of transmission died down. It was a short-lived reprieve that allowed the American people to drop their guard just enough for the Spanish flu to return. By August, it was beginning to ramp up its sweep through the country, reappearing in a more virulent strain in Boston.

    All facets of society were disrupted in the process. Even as war raged on in Europe through November, life was thrown into utter chaos. As people are experiencing now with college basketball and other sports, in 1918 college football was not immune to the disruptions caused by Spanish flu.

    The impacts of the Spanish flu on college football

    By the start of the 1918 college football season in October, cases of Spanish flu were on the rise once again throughout the United States. Football programs across the country were forced to truncate their schedules as players fell ill, practices were canceled, and travel was decreased as much as possible.

    The season was nearly killed before the Spanish flu even reappeared. With World War I in its fourth year of combat operations, the U.S. military was preparing for a major offensive in early 1919. The War Department requested a reevaluation of the football schedule, but supporters lobbied that the physical benefits of athletic training were compatible with the schedule of military training.

    As a result, football teams were back to the gridiron to practice for the 1918 season when the Spanish flu returned to American soil. Programs were forced to deal with illnesses to their players and to opponents’ rosters. Games were canceled from the outset, including a key contest between the University of Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh in early October.

    By the end of the season, nearly 20 percent of all major football teams had shuttered their programs for the season. The Missouri Valley Conference, the forerunner to the Big 8 and Big 12, closed down completely as all seven of its member schools decided not to play football in the midst of the pandemic. In total, 16 of the 88 major programs of the period were sidelined by the Spanish flu.

    The season also resulted in truncated schedules. In 1917, the median college football season lasted eight games. A year later, teams cut their schedules nearly in half as teams played on average five games that season. Where Georgia Tech went 9-0-0 to win the 1917 national championship, Michigan went just 5-0-0 and Pitt 4-1-0 as the Wolverines and Panthers split the spoils.

    What can 1918 tell us about how 2020 might play out on the field?

    As we saw with the Spanish flu, it wasn’t the first period of transmission at the beginning of 1918 but rather the second wave that proved most detrimental. In October 1918 alone, there were 195,000 deaths from the Spanish flu just in the United States. As college football was just getting back into its annual swing, hundreds of thousands of people were dying across the country.

    In the face of the pandemic, college football could not play on as usual. Spring practices have already been canceled in the United States, as campuses learn from the past and transition to remote delivery of the curriculum. While preseason practices this summer will likely go on at this point, there is a real risk that the coronavirus will return in the autumn just as the Spanish flu did in 1918.

    Depending on when the coronavirus returns, football fans might experience a tragedy akin to the cancellation of March Madness. What would college football do if campuses were shuttered in the week leading up to conference championship games? Prepare now for the possibility that we could revert back to the conventions of the 1950s and name a national champion through the wire-service polls without the benefit of conference titles or bowl victories to settle the dust.

    Ultimately, society has been upturned by the coronavirus, just as it was a century earlier by the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. College football is in no way immune to the end of business as usual.

  • Thursday, April 16th

    Thursday, April 16th, 2020

    65 Years Since the University of Pittsburgh Developed the Polio Vaccine, Pitt AD Heather Lyke Creates Program to Help Care For Pittsburgh Healthcare Workers Fighting COVID-19 

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association — as part of its new series sharing its members “Best Ideas” for coping with COVID-19.

    On April 12, 1955, a team of medical workers at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), created the polio vaccine, which saved the lives of millions of people. 65 years later, Pitt Director of Athletics, Heather Lyke, has created a program to help care for healthcare workers at the University of Medical Center (UPMC), located near its campus, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The program, called the “UPMC Caregivers Appreciation Program,” has provided healthcare workers at the UPMC with a place to stay on campus so the workers can avoid commuting back to their homes after long shifts and avoid possibly exposing their family members to the virus. In doing so, Lyke has also provided these workers with Pitt athletics care packages containing items such as gift cards from local corporate partners and restaurants, soap and hand sanitizer, healthy packaged snacks, toiletries, as well as notes of appreciation from Pitt athletics staff and their kids.

    “We wanted to thank the medical workers who are working in nearby hospitals,” Lyke said in a phone interview. “Pittsburgh is the place where the polio vaccine was discovered.  There is a massive research component to our medical hospital – we [Pitt) are one of the only academic institutions in the country with the live COVID-19 virus living in a biocontainment unit. We have made some headway in finding a vaccine that neutralizes the COVID-19 virus in mice (obviously, we [Pitt] have to do human testing).  So, this is an epicenter for medical research and because the polio vaccine was found here, there is this quest to find a vaccine [for COVID-19) and our world-renowned researchers are doing everything they can trying to find it.”

    In addition, Lyke has created several other programs to support her student-athletes and the community, including a “Hail as One” initiative, a weekly newsletter, which shares important information, tips about nutrition and various accomplishments of student-athletes, aimed at keeping the Pitt athletics community connected with student-athletes.

    Lyke’s message to her fellow athletics departments during this time is to “do project-based work.” “Working ahead and thinking about the things that we would normally do during the summer, and instead, accomplishing them now can help create accountability [even in a remote environment],” Lyke said.

  • Wednesday, April 15th

    Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

    Approximately 500 Athletics Department Staff Attend LEAD1 Association’s Virtual Webinar Discussing Compliance in a NIL World 

     LEAD1 Virtual Forum Library (Recordings) HERE

    On Wednesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a webinar for its member institutions discussing various strategies to prepare athletics departments, including compliance officers, for a world with name, image and likeness (NIL). The webinar was led by Courtney Altemus, Founder and CEO of TeamAltemus, Jack Swarbrick, Vice President and Director of Athletics at the University of Notre Dame, Julie Cromer, Director of Athletics at Ohio University and Matt Elliott, Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). With approximately 500 attendees on the webinar, this was LEAD1’s highest-attended virtual event, since beginning its series of virtual events for its member athletics departments last month.

    Although the panel acknowledged that the current focus of the nation, including athletics departments, is to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 with respect to the well-being of all those affected, the panelists agreed that given the amount of work that has already been accomplished on the NIL issue, it is appropriate to also examine other important challenges that the industry faces ahead.

    The panel began their discussion by highlighting how an NIL model could help augment the student-athlete experience and better prepare student-athletes for the real world. At the same time, the panel mentioned the possibility of an NIL model potentially helping athletics department staff better understand the range of opportunities that now exist for student-athletes (such as the opportunity to earn money in the digital media landscape). In this vein, the panel focused on potential NIL opportunities for all student-athletes, not just “elite” athletes, to possibly earn NIL compensation. For example, the panel made the point that student-athletes, even in non-revenue sports, could have monetization opportunities as social media influencers, instructors in youth sports, business owners, authors and other activities based on their quality of work (and not necessarily based upon their popularity as an athlete).

    The panel also discussed the importance of athletics departments helping student-athletes navigate whatever NIL model comes to exist by providing educating and utilizing their own resources such as professors on campus, alumni who have created their own businesses and internal resources within their departments (such as career services).  The panel, however, acknowledged some of the challenges that may exist with respect to illicit recruiting abuses, where potential boosters, donors or other outside third parties pay NIL money to student-athletes, which, in reality, are recruiting inducements.

    In short, the panel outlined some of the commonalties and challenges that likely apply to all LEAD1 member institutions regardless of the eventual NIL model implemented. This will help athletics departments better prepare for the potential realities that lie ahead.

     LEAD1 Virtual Forum Library (Recordings) HERE

  • Tuesday, April 14th

    Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

    New Mexico’s Eddie Nuñez Launches Engagement Programs to Help Community During COVID-19 Crisis 

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association — as part of its new series sharing its members “Best Ideas” for coping with COVID-19.

    While COVID-19 has presented serious health risks to our communities and has affected schools, businesses, travel and other pursuits, this has not stopped the University of New Mexico’s Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez from becoming a role model in support of his local community and state. In fact, Nuñez, with the help of his athletics department staff, has created several new engagement programs to promote the well-being of his community during this difficult time.

    One of those programs, called the “Lobo Pledge,” is a partnership between the University of New Mexico (UNM) athletics department and the University of New Mexico Hospital, where fans of UNM can pledge to follow the recommendations of the New Mexico Department of Health and ask others to do so as well. Those who take the pledge and sign up have a choice of prizes including either a football ticket to UNM’s opening football game (versus Idaho State currently scheduled for August 29th) or a different prize selected by the UNM’s athletics department.

    “We wanted to be proactive during this crisis, but at the same time, give our fans something in return,” Nuñez said in a phone interview. “This is an opportunity to grow our fan base, but more importantly, help the local community.”

    Nuñez has also established other programs, including a community “Food Drive,” in partnership with one of UNM’s closest partners, Albertsons Market, to supply $1,000 of weekly donations to the “Lobo Food Pantry,” which provides free groceries to students, employees and the greater UNM community. According to Nuñez, donors, senior staff, coaches and Albertsons have all donated to the cause and the program has raised more than $4,000 to continue weekly donations for at least the next month.

    Given some of the natural disasters that have occurred in the southern United States in recent years and as a former athletics administrator at Louisiana State University (LSU), Nuñez has already experienced leading during times of crisis on many occasions. “Having gone through so many natural disasters with the hurricanes that devastated our state [Louisiana] and affected our [LSU’s] daily operation on campus and with respect to athletics, those experiences have provided me with perspective on how to deal with something that is not the norm,” Nuñez said. “Natural disasters are not the same [as COVID-19], but it gives you an understanding on what to prioritize – and that is the well-being of your student-athletes, employees and fans.”

    Nuñez’s message to his fellow athletics directors is to “stay positive,” “communicate,” and “think forward.” “We are all in this together. Now is the time to work on professional development to become a better person in every aspect of your life and strengthen bonds you have already established with your peers,” Nuñez said.

    In the coming weeks, LEAD1 will continue to highlight actions that its members are taking to help their communities cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

     

  • Monday, April 13th

    Monday, April 13th, 2020

    COVID-19 AND SPORTS SPONSORSHIP CONTRACTS

    Prepared by: Jay W. Lee and Raul Valero, dated April 10, 2020

    Introduction

    The world is scrambling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on multiple fronts. Here in the United States, we are living under a national emergency as designated by the President, and multiple cities and states have also declared a state of emergency. As of the date and time of this writing, there have been over 1,647,635 reported cases around the world and over 478,109 reported cases in the United States.

    COVID-19 presents serious health risks to our communities and has affected our schools, businesses, travel, and our recreational and entertainment pursuits. Federal and state governments and the healthcare community all agree that efforts to aggressively stem the spread of COVID-19 must include measures to ensure social distancing. The sports and entertainment industries have obliged. For example, in the United States, (i) the NBA suspended the regular season indefinitely; (ii) the NCAA has canceled all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships and related events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments; (iii) the MLB canceled spring training and indefinitely delayed the start of the 2020 season, (iv) the NHL season has been suspended; (v) the PGA Tour canceled the Players Championship and numerous other tournaments, with the Masters, US Open and PGA Championship being postponed.

    As all the leagues and teams fully understand, these difficult choices impact not only their fans and players but also a vitally important revenue stream and valuable partnerships with their sponsors. For several sponsors, these sporting events and related sponsorships often contribute significantly to a company’s brand building strategy and overall marketing strategy. Once games and events are cancelled or postponed, a sponsor’s ability to execute carefully planned marketing and branding strategies is diminished. The benefits expected for paying significant six, seven and eight-figure sponsorship fees are placed in jeopardy. As a result, the Nelson Mullins Sports Law Group has received a number of inquiries from sponsors seeking advice and counsel relating to the effects of COVID-19 and attendant circumstances upon their sponsorship or naming rights agreements.

    With respect to college athletics, there are mounting pressures on various revenue streams critical to funding a full complement of men’s and women’s sports.  Lower than anticipated NCAA distributions to member institutions, sponsors and naming rights partners reducing or suspending payment under existing agreements, and working through diminishing events clauses in multi-media rights agreements are just some of the ways athletic budgets could be impacted.  Defending these revenue streams from disruption may be possible depending on certain factual circumstances and on the language and governing law of the contract.

    Force Majeure

    Force Majeure clauses are very common in commercial agreements. Force Majeure means any objective circumstance that is unforeseeable, insurmountable, and unavoidable. A Force Majeure clause is a contract provision that under certain conditions, excuses a party’s performance due to circumstances beyond that party’s control. In short, this clause is raised as a defense to excuse a party’s obligation to perform.

    Is the Coronavirus Covered under our Force Majeure Provision?

    Answering this question depends on a case by case analysis. Using New York law as an example, the New York courts have held that, ordinarily, Force Majeure clauses must contemplate the specific event that is identified by one or both parties as having prevented performance. As a result, some Force Majeure clauses may be narrowly construed by the courts. However, that is typically not the end of the analysis. Some Force Majeure clauses may have expansive catch-all phrases that can arguably include an event such as COVID-19. It is worth noting that some courts have not given the most expansive meaning possible to these catch-all phrases, instead interpreting these provisions to include only the events that are the same general kind as those specifically mentioned within the Force Majeure provision. Each Force Majeure clause needs to be analyzed independently, together with the facts of each case (e.g., under what authority were games cancelled or postponed) and the law which governs the agreement.

    Other Contractual Provisions

    Sports events are being cancelled, postponed and rescheduled almost on a daily basis. Sponsorship agreements are often characterized by both parties as “partnerships” which establish valuable, long-term commercial relationships. It is not uncommon for both parties to seek to preserve these relationships during challenging times. Certainly, mutually agreed upon commercial solutions are usually preferred over litigation or arbitrations.

    While Force Majeure provisions, given factual circumstances and applicable law, may offer sponsors limited protection, other contractual provisions such as “Games Not Played”, “Unavailable Benefits” and “Alternative Dispute Resolution” can provide sponsors with additional protection and options while preserving the commercial relationship between the parties. For example, an Unavailable Benefits provision typically addresses circumstances where particular sponsorship benefits are no longer available to a sponsor due to circumstances beyond the control of either party. These provisions usually obligate the parties to mutually agree upon substitute or replacement sponsorship benefits which are of substantially equivalent or greater value. Games Not Played contract provisions usually contemplate reasons why a full schedule of games is not played. In such case, the parties may agree to apply a pro-rata reduction formula to sponsorship fees payable under an agreement.

    Conclusion

    As COVID-19 continues to impact the sports world and as sports properties work to establish contingency plans, we recommend sponsors, leagues, universities and teams seek advice of counsel as soon as practical in order to assess and understand all contractual rights and options. Informed discussions should be promptly pursued by sponsors and various sports entities to protect their interest under various sponsorship and other agreements with sports leagues, teams, universities, and venues.

    At Nelson Mullins, our client relationships are based on a deep understanding of our clients’ business worlds and up-front communications regarding client objectives. Our firm’s 800+ legal and business professionals serve as trusted advisors to clients across a broad range of industry sectors, providing practical legal advice, advocating on their behalf, and working side-by-side towards shared goals. The firm has established a Coronavirus Resource Page. Please feel free to access this site for our thought leadership pieces and announcements as well as links to national and international resources.

  • Thursday, April 9th

    Thursday, April 9th, 2020

    Mobilizing From a Distance; Ohio University’s Julie Cromer Arranges Virtual Meals for Student-Athletes During Turbulent Time 

    Prepared by: LEAD1 Association — as part of its new series sharing its members “Best Ideas” for coping with COVID-19.

    With the spread of COVID-19 around the globe, states implementing mandatory stay-at-home orders and U.S. universities across the nation closing due to the pandemic, student-athletes have returned home for the rest of the semester.

    But, this unprecedented reality has not stopped Ohio University Athletic Director Julie Cromer from caring for her student-athletes, even while at a distance. In fact, Cromer has arranged for the delivery of healthy meals to be shipped to student-athletes while they are at home. In conjunction with these deliveries, Cromer has planned “virtual dinners” where coaches and student-athletes can convene for a meal through online platforms such as the Zoom videoconferencing service and FaceTime video chat app.

    “Virtual meals are about remaining connected, Cromer said in a phone interview. “This is an opportunity for student-athletes to not miss out on the important moments in relationships and can provide personal development for students even while they are spending time in a different setting.”

    Cromer has particularly monitored those student-athletes who live with food insecurities at home or in an environment not necessarily conducive to managing a reliable schedule (such as those student-athletes who have more challenging home responsibilities, in addition to staying in shape and keeping up with their coursework). For these student-athletes, Cromer has utilized food delivery services to provide extra groceries (in nominal amounts) to help them survive this difficult time.

    Cromer has a simple message for her fellow athletics leaders who face similar issues across the country. “Stay connected,” Cromer said. “We have prioritized connection and in order to do that we [our staff] has been creative so that we can (as much as possible) continue the things that student-athletes are used to and would have enjoyed if they were with us geographically.”

    Cromer’s actions are consistent with comments made by other LEAD1 athletics directors during some of LEAD1’s recent virtual events; these athletics directors have highlighted various strategies that athletics departments should consider including the importance of promoting health and safety during this difficult time.

    “The virtual meals are a creative way to keep opportunities in motion as we go through this unprecedented time,” Cromer said.

  • Wednesday, April 8th

    Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

    NCAA Compliance Best Practices for Institutions During COVID-19 Pandemic 

    Prepared by: John G. Long, Of Counsel, Jackson Lewis and Doriyon C. Glass, Association, Jackson Lewis
    The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has severely affected the world of college sports. Division I conferences canceled their conference tournaments and the NCAA announced it would not be holding NCAA basketball championships this season, ending March Madness.
    COVID-19’s impact, however, did not stop there. The NCAA issued a division-wide “dead period” on recruiting through at least May. Additionally, athletic conferences have been tasked with determining whether Countable Athletically Related Activity (CARA) is permitted during the pandemic and, if so, to what extent. Currently, all Division I conferences have imposed limitations on interaction with current student-athletes. Conference regulations on CARA range from allowing limited CARA to not allowing any activities at all.
    The restrictions on in-person team activities and recruiting have Division I coaches utilizing videoconferencing software for virtual interaction with student-athletes and prospective student-athletes. For compliance officers, this change poses unique challenges for rules education and monitoring. Institutions must determine how to appropriately monitor countable and voluntary activities taking place by virtual media.

    Institutions should consider implementing the following best practices:

    • Adopt and distribute policies and procedures governing utilization of video and teleconferencing software for communicating with student-athletes.
    • Consider requiring that coaching staff members declare the software platforms they intend to use to communicate with prospective student-athletes during the Division-wide dead period.
    • Continue to issue CARA logs to coaches and student-athletes for sign-off.
    • Have compliance officers request communication logs for the devices coaches choose to use for communications with student-athletes and prospective student-athletes.
    • Provide questionnaires to student-athletes to ensure that voluntary activities conform with Bylaw 17 legislation (Playing and Practice Seasons) and recently issued secondary guidance.
    • Provide student-athletes rules education materials highlighting the differences between VARA and CARA, with an emphasis on virtual communications. For instance, while the provision of workout plans and/or playbooks would not be considered CARA, obligations to follow-up or report on tasks related to the distribution of those materials would make the activities CARA.
    • Have compliance officers attend virtual conferences when possible for the purpose of conducting spot checks.
    • Finally, if possible, check with the IT department or teleconferencing vendors to see if their software includes the functionality to hide attendees from coaching staff members during virtual voluntary meetings.

    NCAA enforcement and membership will not be sympathetic to staff members who choose to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to gain a competitive advantage. It is imperative that institutions proactively provide rules education and monitor virtual activities to minimize the risk of allegations involving potential violations.

    In addition, institutions should consider checking with insurance carriers and appropriate counsel to determine if workouts occurring or monitored by virtual coaching are covered under their policies.

  • Monday, April 6th

    Monday, April 6th, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Continues Weekly Virtual “LEAD1 AD Town Hall Series” During COVID-19 Pandemic; Panel Discusses LEAD1’s Nationwide Survey

     

    On Monday, LEAD1 Association (LEAD1) conducted its second weekly virtual “Town Hall” session limited to LEAD1 member athletics directors. The session was led by a panel of LEAD1 athletics directors including Wren Baker (University of North Texas), David Benedict (University of Connecticut), Julie Cromer (Ohio University), John Currie (Wake Forest University), Doug Gillin (Appalachian State University) and Allen Greene (Auburn University).With approximately 50 of their counterparts on the webinar, the panel discussed the results of the recently announced “State of Athletics in the Face of Coronavirus Survey,” a joint effort between LEAD1 and Teamworks, a leading athlete engagement platform for collegiate and professional organizations. The survey, which collected responses from 110 schools, polled LEAD1’s member athletics directors on current issues in college athletics including student-athlete wellness, financial security and sacrifices and strategic planning.

    One of the highlights of the panel’s discussion included concerns with regard to the well-being of student-athletes. In addition to the academic progress and mental health of student-athletes (especially considering the sudden decline of in-person interactions between student-athletes and their peers (and others)), the panel discussed concerns with respect to the lack of healthy meals for some students (while away from campus) as well as ensuring that injured student-athletes properly rehabilitate while on their own. To this end, the panel focused on solutions to mitigate these issues such arranging home-delivery of meals (even for student-athletes who live out of state) and connecting with students via virtual technology.

    The panel also considered possible financial projections for the upcoming months and agreed that the scenario with respect to football (i.e., no football, full football, or hybrid football) is they key variable still in play given the sport’s tremendous impact on revenue. In this vein, the panel further discussed the importance of collecting student-athlete athletic fees, preserving enrollment (to maintain state appropriations funding) and exploring regionalized scheduling to decrease travel expenses.

    All in all, the panelists regard student-athlete well-being as their biggest concern and are looking for every opportunity to drive positivity even during this difficult time. Over the next several weeks, LEAD1 will continue to host these interactive sessions to discuss how its members can continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

     

    Download Full Survey Results HERE

  • Thursday, April 2nd

    Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

    Student-Athletes, Mental Health, Money and Loss During a Pandemic: One Way to Help 

    Prepared by: Courtney Altemus, Founder & CEO, TeamAltemus

    “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
    -Kobe Bryant

    Student-athletes are reeling from the shock of the sudden loss of sports and they’re left with a lack of closure. “All of those feelings that we generally experience during the loss of a loved one can be true for the loss of this (re: abrupt cessation of organized sports due to corona virus).”1 For many, their sport is their identity, their purpose, the constant they can count on when everything else is changing. For most of their lives their sport has also provided structure and a resource for solutions. There has always been a coach, a trainer, a mentor, a teacher to guide them through anything and to help them anticipate what’s coming next. Collegiate athletics provides an immediate support group in times of loss except now they can’t come together in the same space to support each other.

    Colasanto:2 “Being abruptly removed from anything that you were regularly doing in your life, whether it be your career as an athlete or if you work as a doctor or nurse, if anyone says, “You can’t do this anymore, go home,” it’s a piece of your identity, and it’s a piece of your nurturing routine. So for athletes of all levels, training, practices, games fill the majority of their time. These schedules offer consistency. For some, it’s contentment. It’s what they’re used to. It helps them feel better because routines help people feel good. Not only do they have to encounter possibly the different emotions as if you were grieving the loss of a loved one, they’re also having to create a schedule outside of what they’re used to and from home. Maintaining a good mental state really will have to prompt people to create a schedule outside of their usual.”

    In the midst of this unprecedented disruption, student-athletes are still watching their adult role models for direction. The student-athletes are taking their cues for coping, healing and moving forward from the adults in the virtual rooms.

    Many mental health experts stress the importance of focusing on what we can control, which isn’t much at the moment. Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson offer this advice:

    _____________________________________

    “Focus on the things you can control”

    “Plan for what you can….

    • Focus on concrete things you can problem solve or change, rather than circumstances beyond your control.
    • After you’ve evaluated your options, draw up a plan of action. When you’re done, set it aside and resist the urge to go back to it until you need it or your circumstances significantly change.” 3

    Money is a constant and for many, it’s a constant source of stress even in the best of times. Many student-athletes are spread across different physical locations and incurring unexpected expenses. Without meal plans, dining halls, or nutritionists they need to figure out what to eat, when to eat and how to get the food. Many of their financial support systems have been disrupted or are facing disruption due to job eliminations for their family members.

    One way to help student-athletes cope with financial stress, focus on what they can control and create some structure in their lives is through teaching them how to budget and helping them actually implement their own budget. They will establish great daily habits during this time of crisis and they’ll have their budgeting system in place when some semblance of normalcy resumes. They will also gain a tool for coping with the next unexpected situation in life.

    “Treat this crisis as practice for the next crisis. ” – John Parenti4

    When we teach budgeting or any other financial concept, we always start with our formula for success, “Strategize. Innovate. Execute.” before talking about money. The process of planning, adjusting the plan and executing the plan is something every student-athlete practices every day. Relatability and familiarity are critical when learning about money. At the moment, the world isn’t operating according to any plan we’ve ever known but before the corona virus became a pandemic, we were all operating according to our prior plans.

    The traditional sports world is idle, classrooms are virtual and everyone is captive to their screens. This is an unprecedented opportunity to guide student-athletes through the process of creating new plans, adjusting those plans and executing them for now and for the future. Creating a budget, or for some, changing a budget is an excellent way to instill the practice of focusing on what one can control and preparation for the time when sports and some sense of normalcy returns. A budget will also help minimize financial distractions going forward.

    “Trust me, setting things up right from the beginning will avoid a ton of tears and heartache…” – Kobe Bryant

    Many student-athletes won’t ever return to competitive collegiate sports. Even those who may have the opportunity for an unexpected additional year of eligibility, if they’re not on scholarship, they may not be able to afford it. Helping all student-athletes redirect some idle time and plan for their futures will help bring some definition to this time of uncertainty.

    _________________________________
    1 Rebecca Colasanto, LCSW in, “How to make mental health a priority during the coronavirus pandemic” Charlotte Gibson, ESPN; March 18, 2020

    2 Rebecca Colasanto, LCSW in, “How to make mental health a priority during the coronavirus pandemic” Charlotte Gibson, ESPN; March 18, 2020

    3 Helpguide.org Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson. Last updated: March 2020

    4 The Routledge Companion to Risk, Crisis and Security in Business edited by Kurt J. Engemann

  • Wednesday, April 1st

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

    Potentially Big Opportunities For Universities and Athletics Departments Under Emergency-Relief Package

    As part of the coronavirus relief bill that President Donald Trump signed this past Friday, the package allocates approximately $350 billion in funding to create a program that will provide small businesses, including 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations (for example, your affiliated foundation(s) (independent of the institution)), deemed to have less than 500 employees, with loans. Athletics departments with less than 500 employees may be permitted to apply for aid under this program depending upon the structure of the university (e.g., whether an athletic department is determined to be a legally separate entity from the university itself). In any case, the program may provide significant opportunities for universities, and their affiliated foundations to apply for access to funds. To this end, attached is an outline of the key elements of the loan program. More to come on other parts of the stimulus package.

    Eligible Businesses

    • Small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofits that
      • Have less than 500 employees or the applicable size standard as provided by the SBA (this is important if you are a stand alone athletic department or for your affiliated foundation)

    Maximum Loan Amount

    • During the Covered Period (from February 15, 2020 to June 30, 2020), each eligible business may receive up to 2.5 times its average monthly payroll costs (e.g., loan guideline amounts measured from February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019) subject to a $10 million limitation

    Allowable Uses

    • Payroll costs
    • Rent obligations
    • Utility payments
    • Interest on other debt obligations incurred previous to February 15, 2020

    Terms of Loan Forgiveness

    • Businesses receiving a loan through the program are eligible for loan forgiveness. In the 8 weeks following the loan signing date, all expenses related to payroll (excluding individual employee compensation over $100,000), mortgage interest, rent and utilities may be forgiven
    • The amount of loan forgiveness is subject to reduction based on a business’s reduction in wages or number of employees retained

    Who to Contact About Loans

    • Contact your university’s bank to find out if they are a certified SBA lender

    Given that each LEAD1 athletic department has its own individual structure, and one size will not fit all in terms of determining athletic department eligibility under the program, LEAD1 strongly encourages each athletics director to discuss the loan provisions with his or her university general counsel.

    Unemployment Compensation in Emergency-Relief Bill

    • The bill provides:
      • A laid off worker with $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits for up to four months in addition to any state unemployment benefit that they otherwise would have been entitled to if they lose their job because of coronavirus
    • Who to Contact About Unemployment Compensation: Compensation from the state will be close to $1,000 per week, please contact your state’s unemployment office

    Other Programs in Emergency-Relief Bill that LEAD1 will Continue to Monitor

    • Emergency Assistance Fund – At least 50 percent of the funds that institutions of higher education receive in the emergency-relief package (approximately $6.3 billion) must be used to provide direct emergency aid to students, including grants for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care. This could be very helpful to student-athletes; LEAD1 is awaiting more guidance with respect to allowable distributions of these funds.
    • Main Street Business Lending Program – LEAD1 is awaiting the announcement of a Main Street Business Lending Program by the Federal Reserve, which would support loans to small and midsize businesses (waiting verification if non-profit organizations are included). The potential universe of borrowers is large, as, according to the Census Bureau, there are 6,000,000 businesses with fewer than 500 employees and another 18,000 businesses with between 500 and 5,000 employees. More details to come.

    As part of a series of upcoming LEAD1 COVID-19 reports covering the emergency-relief package, LEAD1 will continue to keep its members informed as more guidance becomes available.

  • Monday, March 30th

    Monday, March 30th, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Kicks off Weekly Virtual “LEAD1 AD Town Hall Series” During COVID-19 Pandemic

    On Monday, LEAD1 Association (LEAD1) conducted its first weekly virtual “Town Hall” session limited to LEAD1 member athletics directors. The session was led by LEAD1 Board Chairman and Clemson Director of Athletics, Dan Radakovich,  alongside University of Washington Director of Athletics, Jen Cohen, Rutgers University Director of Athletics, Pat Hobbs, Tulane University Director of Athletics, Troy Dannen and the University of California Berkeley, Director of Athletics, Jim Knowlton.

    With an audience of more than 50 of their counterparts on the webinar, the panel of athletics directors shared their common experiences as administrators who operate in some of the hardest hit areas with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. The panelists made a compelling reference with regard to applying lessons learned from previous emergencies in their respective communities (such as some of the recent hurricane disasters in New Orleans and wild fires in the San Francisco Bay Area).

    The panel further discussed the importance of positively engaging, even if virtual, with student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff, especially during this difficult time. The panel emphasized the importance of “seeing people’s faces” and “injecting your own humanity” into weekly virtual meetings with student-athletes, coaches, and staff. Some athletics directors are even utilizing “culture managers” to help develop various professional development activities for their student-athletes, coaches, and staff (such as virtual book clubs, cooking lessons with nutritionists, and creative planning to support family engagement).

    In addition, the panel and audience engaged in critical dialogue regarding NCAA APR issues, sport sponsorship requirements and  additional eligibility with respect to spring sport athletes.

    Over the next several weeks, LEAD1 will continue to host these interactive sessions to discuss how its members can continue to operate, take care of their departments and collaborate during this difficult time.

  • Friday, March 27th (PART II)

    Friday, March 27th, 2020

     

    Small Businesses, Including Non-Profits, Offered Unprecedented Liquidity by Congress in Coronavirus Bill Relief

    Following yesterday’s LEAD1 COVID-19 Report, which outlined some of the individual and institutional benefits that Congress will provide in its emergency-relief package to help Americans survive the coronavirus pandemic, as more details from the bill have become available, here are some other notable provisions that LEAD1 institutions should be aware of.

    The emergency-relief package allocates:

    • $500 billion in loans for assistance to businesses, states, and municipalities with approximately $46 billion to be distributed to affected industries (including air carriers, air cargo carriers and businesses critical to maintaining nationals security). The remaining $454 billion is available for loans that may be used to support lending to eligible businesses (including non-profits). This credit facility, to be distributed by the Treasury Department and backed by the Federal Reserve, creates lending leverage of 10 times the amount thereby creating enormous liquidity in the U.S. banking system.
    • Approximately $350 billion in funding to create a program that will provide small businesses, including non-profit organizations and other entities, with loans. Amounts borrowed can be up to eight weeks of average payroll and other costs. These loans can be forgiven through a process that incentivizes companies to retain employees and their salary levels.

    With the U.S. House of Representatives expected to pass the bill today, these provisions can provide significant economic relief for LEAD1 institutions and their athletics departments.

  • Friday, March 27th (PART I)

    Friday, March 27th, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Holds Medical Management in Athletics Webinar with Member Athletics Departments

     LEAD1 Virtual Forum Library (Recordings) HERE

    On Thursday, LEAD1 Associated hosted a webinar for its member institutions discussing how athletics departments can ensure the safety and well-being of their student-athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists on the webinar included esteemed members from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Kathleen Neuzil (Ctr. for Vaccine Development Director) and Dr. Wilbur Chen (Associate Professor, Ctr. For Vaccine Development & Global Health).

    The panel outlined various strategies to help mitigate the spread of the virus including aggressive cleaning of equipment and surfaces that could be infected, the importance of isolation (for known cases of COVID-19), quarantining (for people in known contact with cases of COVID-19) and social distancing (including staying separated at least six feet from others, handwashing/sanitizing and isolating when ill). To this end, the panel made the critical point that by failing to take necessary precautions, even one person (such as one player, coach, or administrator) could unwittingly spread the virus to hundreds of others.

    In addition, the panel emphasized critical steps that athletics departments can take now before the return of student-athletes to campus such as cleaning high-touch surfaces (such as weights, door handles and locker rooms), placing large sanitizer dispensers in public places, converting access to facilities to facial recognition, spacing dining tables, staggering the timing of training and practicing, organizing an influenza vaccine campaign for the fall (e.g., vaccinating all student-athletes and associated staff), using virtual meeting technology and minimizing group sizes.

    The panel also highlighted the history of the coronavirus as well as other known respiratory viruses and identified the effects of COVID-19 to those individuals at higher risk (people older than 60 or with preexisting chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart, lung, kidney and liver disease).

    This discussion followed LEAD1’s other recently hosted virtual experiences for its members during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a knowledge-sharing conference call with the NCAA’s Dr. Brian Hainline as well as an NCAA business update to LEAD1 membership.

     LEAD1 Virtual Forum Library (Recordings) HERE

  • Thursday, March 26th

    Thursday, March 26th, 2020

    U.S. Senate Passes Emergency-Relief Package to Help Americans Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic; Aid for LEAD1 Institutions Included

    The U.S. Senate, on Wednesday, passed an emergency-relief package, that will help address the impacts of the coronavirus on LEAD1 institutions and their student-athletes across the nation.The stimulus package will provide:

    Individual Benefits

    • A laid off worker is entitled to $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits for up to four months in addition to any state unemployment benefit that they otherwise would have been entitled to if they lose their job because of coronavirus.
    • Based on most recent federal tax filings, every American earning less than $75,000 will be entitled to the lesser of a $1,200 check or their tax liability as recorded on their return.
      • Heads of households and married filing jointly filers use the same formula with various phase-out thresholds.
      • Either of those two filings (heads of households and married filed jointly) are entitled to $500 per child under 18 years of age.

    Institutional Benefits

    • Businesses with the flexibility to defer payroll taxes for up to two years.
    • $14.25 billion in flexible funding for institutions of higher education to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus. These funds will help institutions of higher education defray expenses such as lost revenue, technology costs associated with transition to distance education, and grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care.
    • $100 million in funding for schools, including institutions of higher education to respond to the immediate needs of coronavirus and the effect on students (Project SERV).
    • $425 million to increase access to mental health services in communities.
    • $76 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which supports research activities at more than 2,000 research institutions, to better understand science related to coronavirus.

    The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives where passage is expected Friday. In the coming days, LEAD1 will continue to monitor the resources available to help its member athletics directors and their athletics departments survive the coronavirus pandemic.

     

    Additional Resource (Article): American Council on Education President Ted Mitchell on Senate Stimulus Bill’s Impact on Students and Institutions

  • Tuesday, March 24th

    Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

    Six Tips to Address COVID-19 Within Athletic Medicine 

    Prepared by: James R. Borchers, MD, MPH, President & Co-Founder, The U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health

    Dr. James R. Borchers, the President and Co-Founder of the independent athletic medical care partner, the U.S. Council for Athletes’ Heath, has vast experience with healthcare models at all levels of athletics and addresses the following six tips to help athletic organizations address and tackle protocols and process around the coronavirus.

    The COVID-19 public health situation translates to Athletic Medicine and will impact how we traditionally deliver care to athletes. Given our current athletics shutdown, it is our job as athletic healthcare leaders to becoming forward-thinking around crisis management and recovery.

    1. Identify the impact of social distancing for athletic institutions:  We are now all encouraged to abide by new thoughts around social distancing, in both our personal and professional lives. There are some very specific areas associated with athletic medicine that need to be considered and where changes must take place.
      • Hot and cold tubs: There is now, more than ever, the need for individualized delivery of these services and more frequent cleaning and sanitization of these modalities.
      • Potential overcrowding in training and locker room facilities:  With the suggestion to reduce the frequency of visits to health care facilities and provide adequate space for patients and athletes to function while maintaining social distancing, we need to think about when and how teams visit facilities and how much space is offered in locker room facilities – especially visiting locker room facilities (i.e. FB and Lacrosse), for example.
      • Travel restrictions:  Areas for consideration include the number of people traveling and also the spacing available on busses and planes.
    2. Address athlete personal health and hygiene:  There is clear evidence that personal health and hygiene are the number one preventative factors for reducing the risk of infection and spread from an infection like COVID-19.
      • Shared items:  This includes issues like not sharing towels and water bottles during training, practices, and games.
      • Staff Protection:  Recognize the need for continued use for protective equipment like gloves, face masks, and shields with your staff and athletes when appropriate.
      • Individual Health: Athletic institutions also need to prioritize proper rest, sleep, nutrition, activity periodization, and planning for athletes during this time.
      • Facilities:  We also need to consider all training room facilities as healthcare facilities, and as such, will need to be held to the same standards as our medical facilities as far as quality assurance and appropriate protocols.
    3. Consider new models of athletic healthcare delivery:  With the rapid increase of virtual health options, such as virtual visits and telehealth, athletic institutions will need to introduce similar options to ensure sick athletes are not coming to training room facilities until screened. Try to manage as many issues remotely now, when possible.
      • Athletes: Athletes will need options for simple follow-ups to be completed in virtual domains.
      • Records access: Electronic medical records provides us the virtual domain to allow us to do all of these things, but this will be a change in practice for all of us.
      • Staffing:  Additionally, consider limiting the number of healthcare personnel in a room or involved in an athlete’s care; the training of students, residents, fellows, etc. is going to change going forward and athletic organizations will need to adapt to those changes.
    4. Coordinate sport performance, health and safety:  Collectively, there will be an added emphasis on evidence-based practice with Sport Performance personnel—Strength and Conditioning, Nutrition and Sports Science. We are already seeing concern regarding return to training and sport activity in the Athletic Medicine communities.
      • Athletic Administrators:  Athletic administrators will need to consider further multi-disciplinary cooperation within athletic medicine and sport performance providers.
      • Coaches:  Collaboration with sport specific coaches, administration, sports medicine and sport performance personnel is needed to ensure training and sport-specific activities are coordinated with health and safety best practices.
      • Athletic Medicine: Athletic Medicine staff will serve as the coordinators of best practice with respect to athlete health, wellness and safety for student athletes.
    5. Shift from individualized healthcare to community-based health care:  Athletic institutions will inevitably be making more decisions in the future regarding the health and safety not only of individuals but also communities, including teams.  Considerations for community-based decisions include:
      • Excluding athletes with fever from traveling with their team
      • Preventing athletes and teams from traveling to areas with higher issues of disease burden
      • Increasing focus on visiting teams and their overall health
      • Identifying recent illnesses that could put your teams and communities at risk.
      • Considering how your team will interact in facilities with each other—from lifting to eating.
    6. Increase focus on health and safety:  The increased focus on health and safety will become a growing focus for athletic venues, competitions, practices, personnel, and athletes. What was previously a consideration will now become a significant priority for all of these areas. This shift will force athletic organizations at all levels to consider personnel and roles, utilize skill sets to their fullest potential, and consider a true transformation to deliver on the issues above. Initiate these discussions and the changes that are coming in the post-COVID-19 athletics culture with your staff, athletes, and institution stakeholders.
  • Monday, March 23rd

    Monday, March 23rd, 2020

    Untold Athletes Project – Spreading Inspiring Stories

    In an effort to distribute a wide variety of resources amongst the LEAD1 membership, we are excited to bring you the Untold Athletes Project on behalf of Tom Holmoe and David Ball, a graduating senior with BYU’s men’s tennis program.

     

    Athletic Directors, Coaches, and Athletes,

    I am a senior at BYU and like many of your athletes, my senior season and career came to an abrupt end last week. As I’ve talked with other athletes, it has been hard to realize that undefeated teams, All-American hopefuls, unparalleled leaders, March Madness underdogs, and so many others will never get the recognition they deserve. I believe we can change this.

    My goal is to compile and share compelling stories from our student athletes nationwide, honoring the stories of athletes that didn’t get a proper ending to their seasons and careers. I’m sure all of you know athletes within your own organizations who have exhibited courage, sportsmanship, or grit in overcoming great adversity and inspired others while doing so. I would love for you to share with me those stories so we can celebrate the achievements of athletes everywhere together.

    If you know a team or athlete whose story deserves to be heard, please email us their story and a few photos at untoldathletes@gmail.com or submit their story here. We will then share your stories on social media using #myuntoldstory. Since launching the page a few days ago, we have received a wide range of inspiring stories from athletes such as First Team All-American Markus Howard, as well as young underclassman.

    Sports have and always have had a unique power to draw us together. In a time of chaos and confusion, I hope your untold stories will inspire a nation. Please help to share the recognition by forwarding this email to other organizations who may have a story to tell or by following our platform. The larger audience we gain, the greater recognition we can grant to these amazing athletes.

    Sincerely,

    David Ball
    BYU Tennis Captain Class of 2020

  • Thursday, March 19th

    Thursday, March 19th, 2020

    Five Tips to Help Minimize or Eliminate Reputational and Economic Disruptions Caused by COVID-19

    Prepared by: Richard Giller, Pillsbury Law

     

    Richard Giller, an insurance recovery partner in the Los Angeles Office of the global law firm, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, and a member of the firm’s COVID-19 Response Team has provided the following five important steps and tips to help minimize or eliminate reputational and economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus:

    1. Put Together a Crisis Management Team.  The crisis management team should be comprised of members of the administration, human resources, compliance, legal, IT, finance, risk management/insurance, communications, and security.  They need to have the authority to respond fully and quickly.  The team must also establish protocols as to how best to deal with situations involving students, faculty, staff, or administrators who have tested positive for the coronavirus.  Someone should also be tasked with monitoring local, city, state and federal government websites, along with the CDC’s site, for the latest information and advise the member of the crisis management team with updates.
    1. Establish Both an Internal and an External Communication Plan.  The plan must determine the messages that need to be delivered, to whom, in what form, and how often.  Part of the challenge is threading the needle between frequent communication and communication fatigue.  Given the fluidity of the situation, real-time adjustments will need to be made and it important to let people know in advance when the next communication will be sent.  Consistent communication helps to calm frayed nerves.  Remember that the information you share internally will inevitably be shared externally, so internal and external messages should not conflict with one another.
    1. Establish or Revise Your Continuity Plan:  Many businesses and schools are implementing work and learn from home plans so the Association and member institutions must determine whether they have the technology bandwidth to cope with a remote workforce, test the system and determine whether the internal systems are configured, established, and robust enough to meet the unprecedented surge in peak demand.  This is especially important in order to maintain confidence in the institution that, despite the temporary change to online teaching, the academic goals remain unchanged.
    1. Review the Possibility of Insurance Coverage to Offset Losses.  An often-overlooked aspect of responding to a crisis is taking time to review the various insurance policies maintained by the Association or its member institutions that might conceivably provide coverage for the economic losses because of cancellations, postponements, and similar type of preventative measures.  As part of this process, a team should be established to work with outside counsel to analyze the insurance policies and to provide every possible insurance broker and insurance company with written notice of the possibility that claims will be submitted and detail the types of claims.
    1. “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  This phrase, found on posters produced by the British Government in preparation for World War II, remains sound advice 100 years later as to how best to deal with the coronavirus crisis.  It can be easy to get lost in the weeds and the minutia when dealing with a crisis, so it is important to pause, take a breath, constantly track the overall crisis management objectives, and be willing to adjust course in real-time.  As in any crisis situation, errors will inevitably be made but the important thing is to not dwell on the error but, instead, focus on how quickly you can catch the error, assess the adjustments that need to be made, and immediately implement the corrective action.

    Additional Resource (Article): Crisis Survival Guide: How 66 CEOs And Executives Are Leading From Home

  • Wednesday, March 18th

    Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

    LEAD1 Association Holds Knowledge-Sharing Conference Call with NCAA’s Dr. Brian Hainline and Member Athletics Directors 

    On Wednesday, LEAD1 Association hosted a conference call for its member institutions discussing various measures that a number of its athletic directors have taken to continue operations as seamlessly as possible in the current environment of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists on the call included the NCAA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brian Hainline, Vice President and Director of Athletics at the University of Notre Dame, Jack Swarbrick, Director of Athletics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill,  Bubba Cunningham, Director of Athletics at Clemson University (also the chair of LEAD1’s Board of Directors), Dan Radakovich, Vice President and Athletics Director at the University of Texas at Austin, Chris Del Conte and San Diego State University’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics,  John David Wicker.

    Dr. Hainline discussed a possible timeframe for the return of athletic events, which could depend upon the prevalence of medical testing and the advancement of new drugs for treating patients. Dr. Hainline highlighted that without such medical interventions, the curve (e.g., number of infections) would likely peak in June, however, with interventions, the curve could be shortened (still, there could be post-peak ramifications).

    In addition, the panel highlighted various strategies that athletic directors should consider in this difficult and uncertain environment.  The panel recommended that athletics directors and staff should engage in long-term strategic planning and that cost-containment measures should be analyzed. In fact, one panelist stated that they are modeling 20 percent revenue reductions for strategic considerations, based, at least, in part, upon the potential decrease in fans attending live sporting events.

    The panel further emphasized the importance of utilizing coaches to communicate with student-athletes,  promoting the health and safety of student-athletes (including prioritizing mental health), listening to medical professionals with respect to student-athletes pushing to prepare for the possibility of fall competition, collaborating with university leaders, ensuring athletic staff have the requisite technology to work remotely and creating plans for student-athletes to remotely stay in shape (while away from campus). Moreover, the panel urged for the conferences to collaborate with one voice to address the requisite issues associated with COVID-19.

    This discussion followed LEAD1’s yesterday hosted call, which included NCAA panelists discussing various business issues including eligibility and distribution concerns following the cancellation of winter and spring championships.

  • Tuesday, March 17th

    Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

    NCAA Business Update to LEAD1 Membership

    On Tuesday, NCAA President Mark Emmert, Chief Executive Officer Donald Remy, Senior Vice President of Administration Kathleen McNeely, Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Dave Schnase and Vice President of Division I Kevin Lennon briefed LEAD1 member institutions following the cancellation of NCAA winter and spring championships (including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments).

    The panel spoke about the continued evolution of COVID-19 including the timeline regarding the NCAA’s ultimate decision to cancel its winter and spring championships.

    Many questions were also raised regarding the appropriateness of granting relief for the use of a season of competition for student-athletes who participated in spring sports and issues related to seasons of competition for winter sport student-athletes who were unable to participate in conference and NCAA championships. The NCAA’s Division I Council Coordination Committee will make a decision by mid-to-late next week regarding these eligibility issues.

    In addition, while the NCAA generates a significant portion of its revenue through its men’s basketball tournament, it appears that no additional television money from its tournament broadcasting agreement will be distributed to the association. As a result, financial distributions from the NCAA to its member institutions will be impacted.  To mitigate this impact, the NCAA is analyzing its reserves, business interruption insurance policies and possible borrowings.

  • Monday, March 16th

    Monday, March 16th, 2020

    Keep in Perspective

    Major sports disruptions have occurred previously in American history. In World War I, the Olympic games were canceled and Major League Baseball shortened its season. During the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918, most of the country’s college football games were canceled.  And in World War II, the summer and winter Olympics were canceled. Upwards of 350 universities suspended football until the war was over.

    Big Question: How Long Will This Disruption Last?

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s leading experts on pandemics, said Friday that “disruptions to everyday life in the U.S. could last up to another eight weeks.”

    Several cities and states have banned large gatherings, closed schools, sporting events, subways, restaurants, and bars, and businesses are requiring their workers to stay at home. Americans are generally being encouraged to limit their movements to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

    Dr. Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “if you look at this historically, how these things work, it’ll likely be anywhere from a few weeks up to eight weeks or more,” adding that he hopes it’s going to be only two, three or four weeks.

    So-called “social distancing” measures are crucial to slowing the spread of the Coronavirus and ensuring that hospitals are not overwhelmed by an influx of patients. Dr. Fauci said the “U.S. had not peaked yet in terms of the number of cases.”

    Asked if the U.S. is heading toward a gradual shutdown of most businesses, Fauci replied: “I’m not sure we’re going to get to that. I think that would be rather dramatic, but I can tell you that all things are on the table. We have to respond as things evolve over the days and the weeks.”

    However, there are reasons to be reassured coming out of China, specifically in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. (See CNN story below.)

    Over the weekend, in a sign of an improving situation in Wuhan, China, the last two of 16 temporary hospitals built to help Coronavirus patients were shut down. The previous patients were discharged to cheers from onlookers as containment measures put in place appear to be working well to curb the spread of the virus.

    As you can see from the chart below, on February 12, over 13,000 cases were reported that day. Now, nearly six weeks later, daily new case levels have dramatically dropped to less than ten a day. Eight were reported last Friday. The city of Wuhan has been on lockdown for almost sixty days now.  The encouraging news is that the first death occurred in China on January 11 and it seems the crisis has abated in 3 months or so.

    In his comments above, Dr. Fauci said he expects the cycle to play out similarly here in the United States and that our lives could return to normal in six to eight weeks.

    CNN STORY (LINK)

    China is lifting travel restrictions and life is returning to normal.

    Life in China is beginning to return to normal now that the coronavirus outbreak has largely been contained across the country, with lockdowns lifting and employees returning to work.

    China only reported 20 new cases today — a drastic drop from just a few weeks ago, when the country was recording thousands of new infections a day.

    The new cases are no longer spread out across the country — now, new cases are mostly either imported from international travelers or concentrated in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

    Domestic travel is resuming: During the worst of the outbreak, 1,119 highway entrances and exits across the country were closed. Now, all but two have reopened, according to state media outlet Xinhua.

    Hundreds of previously-closed roads in counties, towns, and provinces have also reopened. The national road network is “basically running normally,” and 28 provinces have resumed inter-provincial travel, Xinhua reported.

    Of 12,028 health and quarantine stations set up on highways, 11,198 have been removed. This is a huge contrast to February. Just a month ago, much of China was essentially locked down. Many residents weren’t allowed to leave their apartment complexes, let alone the city. Some stayed indoors for weeks on end.

    Even within cities, public transport was restricted; in Wuhan and other locked-down cities, subway trains were halted and most taxis suspended, with only a small number of government-issued shuttles and cars operating.