NCAA faces lawsuit from high school sports promoter
The NCAA was hit with another lawsuit, this one from a high school sports promoter
- A Lexington, Ky.-based high school sports promoter has sued the NCAA
- The promter contends it was prevented at 11th hour from staging an event at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena
- The promoter since has gone out of business; others, including parents, lost money on this action
An organizer for national high school basketball tournaments is suing the NCAA in federal court, accusing the governing body of committing fraud and antitrust violations in yet another legal challenge to its power in college athletics.
Bleid Sports, which had organized and promoted the tournaments, said the NCAA pulled the rug out from under them at the 11th hour by determining they violated an NCAA rule designed to prevent universities from gaining unfair recruiting advantages by hosting practices or tournaments where prospective recruits compete.
Bleid Sports, based out of Lexington, Ky., had set up tournaments at several college venues across the nation, including Kentucky, Louisville, Duke and UNLV. They featured teams with top recruits, and had attracted thousands of dollars in registration fees, sponsorship fees and ticket sales, according to the suit.
But less than 48 hours before a scheduled tournament at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena in November 2011, the NCAA ruled the tournaments violated bylaw 18.104.22.168, which went into effect in April 2011. It states that a school “shall not host, sponsor or conduct a nonscholastic basketball practice or competition in which men’s basketball prospective student-athletes … participate on its campus or at an off-campus facility regularly used by the institution for practice and/or competition by any of the institution’s sport programs.” Kentucky sought a waiver but was denied.
The ruling forced that tournament to be moved to a high school venue and led to the cancellations of other tournaments even though Bleid said the NCAA previously indicated they were compliant with NCAA rules.
“The NCAA had previously approved similar events held by Rob Blair, the CEO of Bleid Sports, in 2009 and 2010 at Rupp Arena, and has continued to allow a similar event in Michigan to occur,” states the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Lexington Division. “The NCAA’s arbitrary and inexplicable decision, which resulted in Bleid’s events being barred from college arenas, has caused significant harm to Bleid, and Bleid is entitled to compensation for the damages it has suffered.”
Bleid went out of business, and others associated with the events also have claimed to have lost money because of the cancellations, including parents and schools who had paid entry fees and made travel plans.
“NCAA members specifically adopted this rule because they felt non-scholastic events on campus — or at an off-campus facility regularly used by the institutions’ sports programs — may provide a recruiting advantage,” said Stacey Osburn, the NCAA’s director of public and media relations. “The NCAA applies and interprets Association rules consistent with their intent. This rule is no different.”
The NCAA previously sent an advisory to several schools saying the tournaments weren’t permissible because they weren’t “scholastic” – a term the NCAA defined based on who was operating the event.
According to the suit, Bleid Sports said that the NCAA previously said the event was “scholastic” and therefore permissible because it was approved by local and national high school associations.