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Cotton v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

October 11, 2019

TONY COTTON AND THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE PROTECTION AND ADVOCACY COALITION ("ULPAC") APPELLANTS
v.
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION AND UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE MITCHELL PERRY, JUDGE ACTION NO. 18-CI-002159

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANTS: Robert A. Florio Louisville, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE, NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: Edward H. Stopher Raymond G. Smith Charles H. Stopher Michelle L. Duncan Louisville, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: Craig C. Dilger Thomas G. French Louisville, Kentucky

          BEFORE: GOODWINE, NICKELL, AND SPALDING, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          NICKELL, JUDGE:

         Tony Cotton and ULPAC[1] have appealed the Jefferson Circuit Court's October 16, 2018, opinion and order granting motions to dismiss filed by National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") and University of Louisville ("U of L"). Following a careful review, we affirm.

         NCAA is a voluntary, unincorporated association made up of approximately 1, 200 public and private colleges and universities located across the country. It is responsible for promulgating, interpreting, and enforcing bylaws governing intercollegiate athletics. Regulations passed by NCAA govern the conduct of intercollegiate athletic programs of member institutions. The NCAA Committee on Infractions ("COI"), which is made up of volunteers from member institutions and the general public, is tasked with determining when violations of NCAA regulations occur and imposing appropriate sanctions.

         U of L is a public university located in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a member of NCAA and is therefore subject to NCAA regulations. In 2015, NCAA initiated an investigation into U of L's men's basketball program regarding alleged improper activities which violated several NCAA regulations related to recruiting and improper benefits. At the conclusion of the inquiry, on June 15, 2017, the COI issued a decision finding multiple major infractions of NCAA regulations. The decision imposed penalties requiring U of L

vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins in which ineligible student-athletes competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition through either the student-athlete reinstatement process or through a grant of limited immunity.
. . .
[I]f any of the student-athletes competed in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championships at any time they were ineligible, the institution's participation in the championships shall be vacated.

The effect of the decision of the COI ultimately required U of L to vacate 123 wins and its tournament appearances from 2011 to 2015, including its 2012 and 2013 trips to the Final Four and the 2013 National Championship.

         Cotton is a fan of U of L men's basketball. ULPAC is ostensibly an organization "comprising at least 400 members, all of whom by their assertions to ULPAC have detrimentally relied on promises made by NCAA to UL." Cotton and ULPAC brought this action asserting multiple claims against NCAA alleging damages resulting from its treatment of the U of L men's basketball program. Specifically, they claimed NCAA induced them to purchase tickets to witness the 2013 National Championship game by NCAA promising the game would determine the champion "for the year 2013 for the rest of known time." They asserted they purchased tickets because U of L was one of the teams ...


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