New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues; Student Athlete Issues; Due Process; Athletics & Sports

De La Haye v. Hitt, et al. (M.D. Fla. July 10, 2018)

Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a University of Central Florida (UCF) football player, alleged that UCF violated his rights of free speech and substantive due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments when cancelling his athletic scholarship after UCF officials learned that Plaintiff had monetized his YouTube channel.  UCF characterized Plaintiff’s YouTube activity as a violation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Bylaw 12.4.4, which states that a student-athlete may not use their “name, photograph, appearance, or athletic reputations” to promote a business they’ve established.  As an initial matter, the court determined that Plaintiff had standing to seek injunctive and declaratory relief, and Plaintiff’s claims were not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Turning to the merits, the court found that Plaintiff presented a plausible First Amendment claim based on his theory that UCF cancelled his scholarship and removed him from the football team due to the content of his YouTube videos. However, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s substantive due process claim after determining that Plaintiff did not have a protected property interest in his athletic scholarship, and the cancellation of his scholarship could not be recast as a deprivation of a protected interest in continuing enrollment since UCF did not academically dismiss or suspend him.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics Compliance (NCAA & more); Athletics & Sports

Deppe v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletics Ass’n. (7th Cir., June 25, 2018)

Order and Opinion affirming the district court’s decision to dismiss the action.  Plaintiff, a red-shirted punter for the Southern Illinois University football team, transferred to the University of Iowa, but was deemed ineligible to compete for one year, pursuant to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) year-in-residence rule.  Plaintiff brought this action on behalf of himself and a class of student athletes, challenging the NCAA’s year-in-residence rule under the Sherman Antitrust Act.  In affirming dismissal, the 7th Circuit held that “the year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics and is therefore presumptively procompetitive.”

Athletics Compliance (NCAA & more); Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

In re Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n Athletic Grant-In-Aid Cap Antitrust Litig. (N.D. Cal. March 28, 2018)

Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs, consisting of current and former student-athletes, allege that Defendants, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and eleven participating conferences, conspired under the Sherman Act to suppress competition by agreeing to and enforcing NCAA bylaws that capped the amount of financial aid (grant-in-aid) awarded to students-athletes to the cost of attendance, with a few exceptions for additional benefits. To pursue a successful claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, Plaintiffs must show that there was a contract, that the agreement unreasonably restrained trade, and that the restraint (here, limitations on grant-in-aid for student-athletes) affected interstate commerce. Defendants must then provide evidence of the restraints’ procompetitive effects, and Plaintiffs must show that any legitimate objectives can be achieved in a substantially less restrictive manner. Determining that neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel barred the action despite the court’s ruling O’Bannon, the court turned to the merits. Preliminarily, the  court found that Plaintiffs met their initial burden of showing that Defendants’ restraint on grant-in-aid compensation produced significant anticompetitive effects and affected interstate commerce within the market for student-athletes’ athletic services. The court declined to hold that the two pre-competitive effects identified in by the Defendants in O’Bannon—namely, “integrating academics with athletics” and “preserving the popularity of the NCAA’s product by promoting its current understanding of amateurism” –applied to the case as a matter of law, and also concluded that Defendants failed to meet their burden as to the remaining procompetitive justifications.  Last, the court found that the two possible less restrictive alternatives proffered by Plaintiffs were not foreclosed by O’Bannon, and a genuine issue of material fact remained regarding whether Plaintiffs could meet their evidentiary burden under the last prong of their Sherman Act claim.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

Cameron v. Univ. of Toledo (Ohio App. March 15, 2018)

Decision affirming-in-part and reversing-in-part the decision of the Court of Claims of Ohio and remanding as consistent with its decision. Plaintiff, a then-incoming freshman at the University of Toledo (UT) who was recruited as an offensive line player for UT’s football team, brought claims of hazing and negligence against UT after he suffered brain damage from participating in “freshman Olympics,” which was a physical competition coordinated by upperclassmen football players. The court did not disturb the lower court’s finding that the elements of a civil hazing claim were not met since the record showed competent, credible evidence in support of UT’s affirmative defense that its anti-hazing policy was actively enforced at the time of the incident. However, the court found error with the lower court’s application of Defendant’s primary assumption-of-risk defense to Plaintiff's negligence claim, reasoning that the “freshman Olympics” activities were not inherent to the game of football or to team building. The court further found that UT’s coaches owed Plaintiff a duty of care based on their contractual duties to protect and keep student athletes safe, a common law duty of care between a coach and student athlete under similar circumstances, and the foreseeability of harm Plaintiff suffered. The court directed the lower court to determine on remand whether Plaintiff’s injuries were the natural and probable consequence of UT’s failure to stop the activity in question.

Due Process; Constitutional Issues; Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

Brown v. Fla. Gulf Coast Univ. Bd. of Trs., et al. (M.D. Fla. March 14, 2018)

Order denying Plaintiff’s Second Application for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).  After being dismissed from Florida Golf Coast University’s (FGCU) women’s basketball team, Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order to reinstate her to the team pending the appeal hearing of her dismissal.  She alleged that FGCU’s grievance policy suffered from constitutional defects and that she would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a TRO, because she would miss a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to participate in the NCAA Tournament.  In denying the temporary restraining order, the court concluded, “[T]he due process clause has little, if anything, to do with a student’s ability to play school athletics.”

Title IX; Due Process; Student Athlete Issues; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Constitutional Issues; Athletics & Sports

John Doe v. Wright State University (S.D. Ohio August 24, 2017)

Order sustaining Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and overruling as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously, but granting Plaintiff Limited Leave to Amend. Plaintiff is a former member of the Wright Student University (WSU) Men’s Varsity Tennis Team and alleged that Defendants, the Chair of the Student Appeals Panel and WSU Administrators, as well as WSU, violated his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Ohio Constitution, when it removed Plaintiff from the tennis team and expelled him from WSU for sexual misconduct, verbal harassment, and hazing of his fellow teammates. The court found that Plaintiff did not raise claims against any government officials, nor against any individual defendants acting on behalf of the U.S. government, and therefore, his Fifth Amendment claims were dismissed with prejudice. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim because he had sufficient notice and opportunity to defend against the charged allegations.  The court denied as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously, as all his claims were dismissed, though the court granted Plaintiff limited leave to amend his complaint within twenty-one days as to his right to call exculpatory witnesses, instances of prejudice he experienced as a result of being prevented from doing so, and whether WSU’s hearing was effected by animus, prejudice, or impermissible stake in the outcome by WSU officials. 

Title IX; Minors on Campus; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

K.T. v. Culver-Stockton College (8th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming the district court’s grant of Culver-Stockton College’s (CSC) Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff-Appellant, a sixteen-year-old junior in high school who was invited to visit Culver-Stockton as a potential recruit to the women’s soccer team, claimed that she was physically and sexually assaulted by a fraternity member at an on-campus fraternity during her visit. The district court granted CSC’s Motion to Dismiss, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Even assuming that Plaintiff-Appellant's status as a non-student did not preclude her from asserting a Title IX harassment claim, the Eighth Circuit found that Plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that CSC had actual knowledge of discrimination, since actual knowledge requires institutions to have “more than after-the-fact notice of a single instance in which the plaintiff experienced sexual assault.” Moreover, she failed to plausibly plead deliberate indifference or that the College's response to her report had a systemic effect such that she was denied equal access to educational opportunities provided by the College.