U.S. Athletic Associations' Rules Challenges by International Prospective Student-Athletes-NCAA DI Amateurism

Article excerpt

This article is part of a broader research stream investigating policy and regulatory frameworks impacting International Prospective Student-Athletes (IPSAs) and their transition to the U.S. combining education and athletics. Elsewhere analyzed are the problems faced by IPSAs in particular relation to the amateurism framework as applied by the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I (NCAA DI) when contrasted with the international federalized club-based governance model (Kaburakis & Solomon, 2005), as well as the policy recommendations that may attend to policy conflicts and the challenges faced by IPSAs, Athletic Associations, and their member institutions (Kaburakis, 2005). This research examines the legal handling of such cases through the U.S. system of Jurisprudence and summarizes the important concepts from legal theory and the major lessons from precedent that may be instrumental in litigation and policy evolution on such matters.

Introduction

U.S. Athletic Associations and their member institutions frequently are called upon to resolve complex problems in regard to eligibility of International Prospective Student-Athletes (IPSAs). In order for the latter to be declared eligible for interscholastic or intercollegiate athletic participation, they need to document their valid status according to the respective Association's regulations. As is elaborated in prior literature (Kaburakis & Solomon, 2005; Kaburakis, 2005), especially in the case of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I (NCAA DI) member institutions, there are many problems in the determination of amateur status of an international prospect, and NCAA and member institutions' staff members engage in a time-consuming and frequently ambiguous procedure when trying to reach eligibility decisions.

In this process, especially in regard to intercollegiate athletics, there are legal ramifications for the NCAA and member institutions. This study may forecast and prepare for potential legal challenges and litigation initiated by international prospects and their families, after being denied access to NCAA DI institutions and declared ineligible for intercollegiate athletics. Under the prism of U.S. Constitutional Law, there is a need for identifying the legal importance of the outcomes present tactics may have in IPSAs cases, and whether these practices should be amended in order to achieve Equal Protection of the laws for specific classes.

IPSAs are pre-empted from pursuing higher education and athletics in NCAA DI schools, due to the systems of origin and their incompatibility with the NCAA DI structure, after they have been offered the chance to do so by means of scholarship offers. Does that create a door through which IPSAs may successfully challenge such NCAA DI amateurism policy and their handling by member institutions and the NCAA staff? Is that considered a legal "Achilles' heel"? Is the very gift of an athletic scholarship offer to an IPSA a "Trojan Horse", use of which in U.S. courts may prove detrimental to NCAA DI member institutions and NCAA staff? Can IPSAs challenge a negative eligibility reinstatement decision by member institutions or the NCAA staff? If so, what are the chances of success in U.S. courts? For that matter, were there any IPSAs that have done so successfully in the past?

This legal analysis ultimately attempts to answer two simple, straightforward, and at the same time difficult questions: Is there something wrong in the handling of IPSAs by NCAA DI amateurism as mentioned above? If so, can they do anything about it?

These questions lead to Athletic Associations' rules' challenges, their constitutional scrutiny, the characterization of their regulations as discriminatory or not, and an analysis of basic legal concepts applicable to the cases examined. It is convenient and helpful, when discussing amateur Athletic Associations rules and their challenges, to include high school regulations and to distinguish the differences between cases handled at the high school level and at the collegiate level. …