Why Are There So Many Major College Post-Season Conference Basketball Tournaments When Forty Years Ago There Were Almost None?

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In the modern world of college basketball, every Division I conference except the Ivy League sponsors a post-season conference tournament. In 2013, there were 31 such tournaments.

For teams that have played extremely well during the regular season, these tournaments are not crucial but a good performance can improve a team’s seeding in the NCAA tournament. For teams on the proverbial bubble, a good performance, even short of a conference championship, can be enough to push a team into the field of 68.

For teams that have no chance of being selected for the post-season on the basis of their regular season performance, their fans can always hope for a miracle run that will allow them to claim their conference’s championship and its automatic bid to the “Big Dance.”

It is not hard to understand the popularity of these tournaments. They bring together into a single building all of the conference’s teams as well as a congregation of fans from across the conference. Some fans are willing to spend large sums to attend the tournament in person, and thousands more are happy to watch it on television or listen to the games on the radio. Fans of underperforming teams know that somewhere out there in the basketball stratosphere there is a team with a losing record that is going to catch fire and will end up matching the NCAA tournament. With luck, that team will be their team.

However, students of the history of college basketball know that 40 years ago, such tournaments were quite rare in major college basketball. Although district championship tournaments were ubiquitous in high school basketball in the 1950s and 1960s, they were once shunned by college conferences. Read more »

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Marquette’s First Basketball All-American Was a Marquette Law Student

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Boops MullenMarquette’s men’s basketball program has produced a long line of All-American basketball players. The ranks of this elite group include such notable hoopsters as George Thompson, Maurice Lucas, Dwayne Wade, Jim Chones, Dean Meminger, Earl Tatum, and Butch Lee.

However, the first Marquette basketball All-American was 6’2” guard Edward “Boops” Mullen who played for the Hilltoppers (as the team was then known) from 1931 to 1934. Mullen was named as a first team selection to the Converse All-American team following the conclusion of his final varsity season, during which he had been enrolled as a first year Marquette law student.

Mullen was also the first (and to date only) Marquette law student to have played in the NBA or one of its predecessor leagues after receiving his law degree. Read more »

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Marquette Law Professor and CAS Arbitrator Matt Mitten Helps Resolve First Legal Dispute at the Sochi Winter Olympics

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Olympic_rings_without_rims.svg

Professor Matt Mitten was one of three members of a Court of Arbitration for Sport panel that was called upon to resolve the first legal dispute to arise at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Along with fellow arbitrators Patrick Lafranchi of Switzerland and Robert Decary of Canada, Professor Mitten denied the claim of Austrian skier Daniela Bauer that she had been improperly excluded from the Austrian Olympic team.

The decision was handed down in Sochi. Bauer filed her claim on February 2, and the matter was heard by the Ad Hoc panel on the evening of February 3, with a final decision handed down at 1 p.m. (local time) on February 4.

A full account of the proceedings can be found here.

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My Official Super Bowl Television Post

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Category: Intellectual Property Law, Public, Sports & Law
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kitten bowlThe 48th annual Super Bowl is tomorrow, which means of course that people are thinking about intellectual property law. (Doesn’t everyone?) No, I’m not going to talk about whether your local grocery store infringes on the NFL’s trademark when they advertise “Super Bowl Savings,” except to pose the question of whether a single person ever has been actually confused about whether that indicates a relationship between the NFL and the grocery store. Or the makers of this thing. Rather, I’m going to talk about television. Specifically, what size television can you watch the Big GameTM on?

The NFL caused a bit of confusion on this score when they sent a cease and desist letter to an Indiana church back in 2007 that was planning on hosting a Super Bowl party for church members, with a fee for attendance and the game displayed on a “giant” TV. (I can’t find a description of the exact size.) In the letter and in subsequent pronouncements, the NFL took the position that it was a violation of copyright law to display the Super Bowl to a public gathering on a screen larger than 55 inches diagonally. In the face of likely congressional legislation in 2008, the NFL backed down and said it would not enforce its rule against church groups. But it still maintains that others cannot display the game publicly on sets larger than 55″.

News stories about the controversy have gotten some parts of the relevant copyright law correct, but are still a bit confusing on the 55-inch “rule” and where it comes from. So I’ll try to clarify. The short version: There is no 55-inch rule, at least not for the game itself. Read more »

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Redskins and Hog Rinds–Trademark Denied

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Category: Intellectual Property Law, Public, Race & Law, Sports & Law
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Pork RindsThe United States Patent and Trademark has recently refused to register the trademark “Redskins Hog Rinds” for a California food company on the grounds that the mark is “disparaging” and therefore prohibited by Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute.

The ruling, handed down on December 29 by an attorney-examiner, can be appealed. The decision concluded that there was no reason to deny registration of the mark except for the fact that it was disparaging to Native Americans. The examiner reached this conclusion on the basis of dictionary definitions that identified the term as disparaging and by the opposition to the continuing usage of the term “Redskins” by a number of Native American groups, including the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Nation, as well as articles about Indian activist opposition to the term that appeared in the Washington Post and the magazine, Indian Country Today.

This is not the first time that the term “Redskins” has been ruled disparaging. In recent years the Washington Redskins football team has unsuccessfully attempted to register variations on its famous mark. Read more »

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The Use of Native American Logos in Czech Ice Hockey

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HC PlzenI was generally aware of the Czech fascination with American Indians, but I was caught by surprise when I encountered a trio of Native American musicians and dancers performing in resplendent tribal costumes on a street corner in downtown Prague during my first day in the city this past December. (See below.)

I was even more surprised to discover that the players of HC Skoda Pilsen (Plzen, in Czech), the reigning champion of the Czech Extraliga (the country’s highest Hockey League), wear an Indian head patch on their uniforms and are nicknamed the Pilsen Indians.

In addition to the logo, the Pilsen club also has a live mascot (presumably a Czech) who dresses liked a Plains Indian. Moreover, at the beginning of each season, an individual in the garb of an Indian shaman comes on to the ice in the club’s home arena and performs a good luck ritual on behalf of the team. The mascot and shaman can be seen here.

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A Conceptual Approach to Advising High-Profile Clients

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This blog post concludes the series on the Fantex, Inc. IPO by analyzing the need for competent, and honest, financial attorneys with respect to managing the wealth of high-profile clients.

It is hard to imagine that NFL running back Arian Foster received legal or financial counsel before signing his brand contract with Fantex. Under the terms of the agreement, Foster assigns 20 percent of his gross earnings to the company in return for a one-time payment of $10 million, intended to be raised through the company’s IPO. The contract remains effective indefinitely and grants Fantex the right to audit Foster’s finances. Moreover, the only earnings excluded from the 20 percent assignment provision are any movie and TV roles where Foster does not portray a football player, as well as any music that he produces or writes. The one-sidedness of this contract—and the fact that Foster actually signed it—shows that Foster’s advisors, if any, did not have his long term financial interests in mind. Read more »

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Why Is the Word “Redskin” so Offensive?

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The debate over the appropriateness of Native American team names rages on. Whatever the propriety of generic Native American team names like Indians, Chiefs, Braves, or Warriors, or tribal names like Utes, Chippewas, or Seminoles, there seems to be a widespread belief that the term “Redskins” is especially offensive and insulting to Native Americans. How this perception came about is somewhat puzzling, as it appears to be of relatively recent origin.

There is little evidence that the perception of “redskin” as an inherently offensive term for Native American existed before the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Traditionally, the word “redskin” was viewed as a synonym for Indian or Native American and did not carry the sort of negative connotations that have long attached to ethnic slurs like “chink,” “wetback,” “kike,” or “nigger.” Sportswriters covering teams with Indians nicknames during the first three quarters of the twentieth century routinely substituted “Redskins” for “Indians” or “Braves” in search of variety, and they apparently did so without being aware that this alternative word choice was more offensive than the original.

Although the name “Redskins” was earlier used by the Muskogee, Oklahoma, minor league baseball team and the Miami University of Ohio football team, the Redskins name is today primarily associated with the Washington team in the National Football League. Read more »

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Adding Context to the Fantex Public Offering

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Part 1 of 3: Legitimate or Emotional Investment?

During the NFL season, millions of fans are emotionally invested in their favorite teams and players. But since Fantex, Inc. filed a preliminary prospectus with the SEC on October 17, the notion of financially investing in professional athletes has generated considerable buzz. After letting the dust settle, a careful reading of the company’s prospectus reveals numerous red-flags regarding this IPO – most notably to potential investors.

At first glance, Fantex’s strategy to raise capital appears pretty straightforward. The company will raise $10 million by selling ten-dollar shares to the general public. Fantex also entered into a “brand contract” with Houston Texan’s running back Arian Foster. Under the terms of this contract, Fantex will make a one-time, $10 million payment to Foster in exchange for 20% of his future earnings. The company expects to enter into similar brand contracts in the future with not only athletes, but also entertainers and other high-profile individuals. If Fantex’s efforts are successful, it will issue dividends to investors. Therefore, the more shares that are purchased, the more dividends investors can expect to receive – right?

As with most IPOs, nothing is ever quite so clear. The details in the prospectus reveal that Fantex lacks any clear business model. More importantly, there is no clear plan for generating a return for investors. Based on the prospectus, it is safe to conclude that any reasonable investor would not purchase shares under this IPO. However, this offering is perfect for those investors who do not actually intend to make any profit. Read more »

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NCAA President Says Change Needed, But It Won’t Include Paying Athletes

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There is pretty general satisfaction with the way college athletics are governed – if you’re talking about the NCAA’s Division 2 and Division 3 schools, the smaller universities and colleges that don’t have big budgets and don’t often break into the spotlight.

But Division 1? “There is absolutely no one satisfied with the current model,” Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session this week in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. The big, high-profile sports programs with huge budgets have attracted great controversy, to the point, Emmert said, that upcoming meetings will consider changes in how college sports programs are governed.

One thing that Emmert said is almost certain not to be changed is the longstanding prohibition against paying college athletes anything that would amount to salaries. Doing that has been the subject of extensive attention in the news media recently, including a cover story in Time magazine that called it “a moral imperative” to pay college athletes. Read more »

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Crime, Art, Sports, and Judge De Sanctis: An Update

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De SanctisLast September, the Law School hosted a lecture by the Hon. Fausto Martin De Sanctis, a distinguished federal judge from Brazil. A former fellow at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington D.C. (2012), Judge De Sanctis has spearheaded Brazil’s efforts to crackdown on international and domestic money laundering, among other crimes. In his lecture, Judge De Sanctis described how museum-quality art served as a medium for laundering cash that left only a scant trail for investigators to follow. It is, he said, an international problem that cries for international solutions.

Judge De Sanctis has now published a book on this intricate topic, Money Laundering Through Art: A Criminal Justice Perspective (Springer, 2013).Central to Judge De Sanctis’s argument is the need to lift the secrecy that shrouds many art transactions. While art dealers proclaim the need for confidentiality and the cultivation of a mystique, law enforcement contends that this same secrecy facilitates crime and fraud. The complexities of these crimes, including references to Judge De Sanctis and his (then forthcoming) book, were recently canvassed by the New York Times in a May 2013 story. (See link)

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A Sensible Approach to Reforming College Sports

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The modern university is essentially a corporation with four lines of production, the four lines being: education, research, medical services, and entertainment. Understanding the proper role of athletics in the university framework is complicated by the fact that sports are both part of the university’s educational “mission,” and the primary form of public entertainment it produces.

The confusion between athletics as a component of undergraduate education and athletics as entertainment has produced no end of problems for universities and for the NCAA, the primary regulator of college sports.

The primary source of the confusion is the labeling of participants in revenue generating college sports as student athletes, as though they were somehow ordinary students who just happened to choose to participate in sports as an extracurricular activity, as opposed to college radio, theater, or their school’s African-American heritage organization.

In reality, scholarship athletes are paid entertainers whose wages are, thanks to the salary cap imposed by the NCAA and tis member schools, paid in kind in the form of free food and lodging, free textbooks, the opportunity to attend classes and pursue a degree, and special tutoring not available to ordinary students. If these particular university employees lose interest in their sport, or simply fail to perform at an acceptable level, their employment can be terminated. Read more »

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