ESPN reporter speaks to sport law students regarding current issues in sports

By Mark Chiarelli

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(ESPN)

(ESPN)

Jeff Goodman, a national college basketball reporter for ESPN, spoke to sport management students enrolled in an introductory sports law class Wednesday morning.

Goodman and Professor Glenn Wong held a “radio show” style discussion, as Wong asked Goodman about current legal issues in sports, the recruiting landscape in college basketball and Goodman’s personal career.

A veteran basketball reporter with experience covering professional, college and high school basketball, as well as doing recruitment for a variety of outlets including Fox Sports and Scout.com, Goodman appears on digital ESPN platforms and television productions.

“I try to be the only guy who can (cover) all three levels of basketball,” Goodman said.

He spoke at length about the issues college basketball teams face in terms of recruiting players. Goodman noted that recruiting is a competitive environment between various Division I programs and that teams will go to great lengths to gain an advantage.

In particular, Goodman acknowledged that many schools will work in conjunction with sneaker companies such as Nike and Adidas to persuade players to join particular programs. Those same players play for specifically-branded Amateur Athletic Union teams in high school and often attend college programs which wear the same brand of apparel. So, if a high school student plays for a team outfitted by Nike, that student could be pressured to attend a college that also wears Nike apparel.

“There are certainly some programs out there that are not doing it the right way,” Goodman said in an interview with the Collegian following the discussion. According to Goodman, schools have found ways to skirt around NCAA regulation.

“It trickles down. Now, it’s different levels of cheating. But again, the hardest part is trying to catch them,” he said.

Goodman believes teams sidestep recruiting rules established by the NCAA because programs aren’t afraid of the repercussions. The NCAA generates billions of dollars in revenue from its NCAA Tournament every March, and can’t afford to alienate powerful programs completely.

“They’re not scared of the NCAA, that’s the issue,” Goodman said. “The only time (the NCAA) really punished people is for lying to them…That’s where they get hit now. Other than that, nobody is intimidated by the NCAA.”

The class spent time this year learning contract law, tort cases and current issues surrounding sports. Recently, a U.S. District Court judge struck down the NCAA’s use of a player’s likeness or image for commercial purposes, saying it violated antitrust act in the Ed O’Bannon case. The decision was an important swing of power in favor of collegiate athletes, and left the NCAA “backpedaling,” according to Goodman.

Goodman discussed one of the NCAA’s responses to the measure.

NCAA President Mark Emmert currently supports a plan to offer a $2,000 stipend to scholarship athletes in an effort to further accommodate players. Goodman believes this is a decision that the top Division I programs will support and will further support the players.

“I’m not sure Emmert ever wanted to give a stipend, but there’s so much pressure right now,” Goodman said. “And if he doesn’t, I think then, these schools are going to get together and say ‘Well, you know what, if the NCAA isn’t going to change, we’re going to look at other avenues.’”

Goodman, who graduated from the University of Arizona, also discussed his career path. He originally worked in public relations before freelancing for the Associated Press, Washington Post and USA Today. Eventually, he earned a spot at a startup recruiting website covering basketball and football recruiting.

Goodman acknowledged that it’s helpful to have a background in sport law when covering the sports industry.

“I think it all helps,” Goodman said. “If you want to get into sports, it’s so broad now. You have to know about everything. People are asking me about every aspect and I wish I had more knowledge about sport law and about other parts of the industry.”

 

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.