Louisville just announced a self-imposed sanction, in the form of a post-season ban imposed on its basketball program, associated with the charges made by a stripper that she had performed for players and recruits at the player’s Louisville dorm. The penalty is, presumably, a blow to the players on the team, but also to the two graduate-transfer players who transferred in with the obvious hope of making a run in the March Madness tournament during their one year of service on the Lousiville team.
So the events raise the question: Does the player have any recourse? The answer for the two grad-transfers is, probably not (though I don’t know enough about the facts to answer.) But there are steps which every recruit should take before signing an NLI, to protect themselves and to increase their chances of having options in these kinds of situations.
First of all, the contract which players sign is complicated, and includes (at a minimum), the NLI and the SAS (Student-Athlete-Statement.) The NLI, traditionally, is signed while the player is still in high school, while the SAS is signed on campus. Those documents require that the player state that”to the best of [his] knowledge, he “[has] not violated any amateurism rules” and has “not provided false or misleading information concerning [his] amateur status to the NCAA.”
Because the NLI and SAS are drafted to protect the schools and the NCAA, though, there is no parallel provision on those forms where the coach (or AD) has to make a similar affirmation that no NCAA violations have occurred, and that they are unaware that any violations have occurred. (The omission is inexcusable, but the whole process of getting the player to sign can be described in one word: predatory.)
To remedy that hole in the documents, before signing an NLI, every recruit should request, in writing, a copy of the Disclosure form (by each coach in his sport) which every coach is required to file with the NCAA each September, which includes the coach’s signature making clear that he is aware of no NCAA violations. This form is shown here.
Why bother with this, and why ask for the forms in writing? So that you can later show that you relied upon the coach’s being truthful when filling out that form. It’s called ‘detrimental reliance’: I relied on your statements, and you weren’t truthful.
So let’s see how that plays out, using, not the two grad-transfers at Louisville, but Donovan Mitchell, a new freshman on the Louisville team. (For this example, I’m going to assume Mitchell never had anything to do with the strippers at Louisville.) Suppose, before signing his NLI, Mitchell had asked for a copy of all the Coach Disclosure forms signed by Louisville coaches. And then this self-sanction is imposed, and Mitchell wants to transfer. He can rightfully claim that he relied on those Coach Disclosure forms in making his decision to sign, and ask a court to void the NLI, based upon fraud or material misrepresentation. (Trust me, there are many other grounds for arguing that the NLI is void, but no need to get into those right now.) Upon filing an action for that kind of relief, in turn, he has an opportunity to engage in ‘discovery’, including the taking of depositions of fact witnesses — like Pitino, or McGee. Because the very last thing in the world that Pitiino wants to do is to testify in a deposition, under oath, he will be very anxious to settle the matter by releasing Mitchell from his NLI, and letting him go play — immediately — at the school of his choice.
Summary: Every recruit should always ask in writing for a copy of those Coach Disclosure forms. I will go further. If I were the recruit, I would ask every coach to countersign those same forms, as of the date or week that I am going to sign the NLI — as an update.