2017 Symposium Review: A Grand View of the Field

    By: Jessica Wolinsky

On October 13, 2017, Cumberland Law Review and the American Journal of Trial Advocacy hosted the 2017 Symposium titled “A Ball Park Overview: The Field of Sports Law” at the Regions Field, Schaeffer Eye Center Lounge in Birmingham, Alabama.  This marks the first year both journals have had the privilege of collaborating to host symposium, and the event was a grand slam.  A delicious welcome breakfast complemented an excellent view of Regions Field for attorneys, law students, and professionals involved in Alabama’s sport’s law industry.

The event began with a welcome from Sean Herald, Managing Editor of Cumberland Law Review, and opening remarks by Cumberland Assistant Dean, Allen Howell.  Dean Howell described sports as a reflection of our culture and society, drawing together people from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds.  Furthermore, he found Regions Field to be the perfect venue for Symposium, representing the impact sports can have on a community.

The discussion portion of the event began with a presentation titled “Eligibility Issues of Blue Chip and International Student-Athletes” by Don Jackson, principal of The Sports Group and an adjunct professor at Cumberland School of Law.  His experience counseling and representing professional athletes, scouts, and coaches, as well as appearances before various NCAA committees, allowed him to incorporate personal anecdotes that brought to life many of the issues facing the world of sports.  Upon the conclusion of his presentation, a question was raised regarding the potential for a public university to sue a player’s family member under the new definition of “agent.”  To his knowledge, a family member had never been sued by a university, but it is now a possibility under the new definition.

Patrick Strong, counsel at Balch & Bingham, LLP, then provided an extensive overview of sports law.  His representation of some of the most respected collegiate and professional coaches in the country gave him an excellent perspective in answering the question “what is sports law?” In a detailed presentation, he described the differences between the traditional and non-traditional roles of sports agents and the role of the courts in resolving sports conflicts.

Following a short break, the event reconvened with a panel on NCAA compliance. Clayton Bromberg, Jr. and Jay Ezelle, partners at Starnes, Davis, Florie, LLP, provided key insight, having successfully represented both schools and athletes in the area of NCAA compliance.  Additionally, William King, Associate Commissioner for Legal Affairs and Compliance with the Southeastern Conference (“SEC”), provided a unique perspective as he is responsible for overseeing current litigation and assisting SEC institutions with compliance issues and rules education.  Additionally, King has over twenty-five years of legal practice experience, where he was recognized as a leader in NCAA compliance.  Rounding out the panel’s discussion group, Clinton Speegle, an associate on the NCAA compliance team at Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC, provided additional insight from his experience representing schools before the NCAA Committee on Infractions and involvement in all phases of NCAA enforcement investigations.  The discussion was moderated by Russ Campbell, founding partner of Balch Sports at Balch & Bingham, LLP, who has more than two decades of experience as a sports agent and is a leading attorney in the sports and entertainment arena.  Questions posed to this highly experienced panel brought about a thorough discussion on the differences and similarities between civil litigation and NCAA compliance, the overall NCAA process, and the responsibilities of head coaches, including the difficulties they face in managing players.

The event concluded with a presentation detailing the “Vanderbilt Rape Trial” (Tennessee v. Brandon E. Banks et al.) and the role sports played in this case.  The presentation featured Roger Moore, Deputy District Attorney General for Davidson County, Tennessee, and Worrick Robinson, IV, defense attorney with Robinson, Reagan & Young, PLLC, and a Cumberland alumnus.  This case revealed that, with the increase in media attention, student-athletes have become high-publicity targets, which can affect the outcome of litigation.  The significant coverage in this specific case, actually led to a retrial after a juror was recognized by a subject who had previously assaulted him.  The subject notified defense counsel, questioning why the individual was permitted to serve on the jury.

Closing out the event, Allyson Swecker, Articles and Symposium Editor for the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, gave final remarks, thanking all in attendance.  Following the event, speakers joined members of the Cumberland administration and board members from both Cumberland Law Review and the American Journal of Trial Advocacy for lunch in the skybox, overlooking the field.

On behalf of the Cumberland Law Review and the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, special thanks are offered to the speakers who presented at this year’s Symposium, Cumberland School of Law, all guests in attendance, and a specific thank you to Sean Herald, Allyson Swecker, and Lynda Reynolds for coordinating the 2017 Symposium.

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