Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Aspirational Bowl

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl: it’s the bowl all other bowl games should aspire to be.  Not only is it a success in terms of ticket sales and local economic impact, but it also ranks first amongst bowls in charitable giving each and every year.

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl consistently makes charitable donations totaling around $1.2 million.  While other bowls may include complimentary tickets in their donation calculation, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl does not.  That money is spent giving back to SEC and ACC schools, supporting Winshape Homes (a Chick-Fil-A charity) and funding the Play It Smart program in Atlanta Public Schools, amongst other things.

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl Challenge is an annual golf tournament that had an overall charitable impact of $571,000 this year.  Of that, $415,000 represented the scholarship purse to the twelve participating SEC and ACC schools, with the rest going to charities unrelated to the universities, namely Chick-Fil-A’s Winshape Homes.  The Chick-Fil-A Bowl’s VP of Communications, Matt Garvey, tells me the coaches that play in this tournament take it very seriously.  They recruit their partner, who is a celebrity alumnus of the university.  If that partner doesn’t measure up, they have no qualms in finding a new one for the next year. 

Another way the Chick-Fil-A Bowl supports the colleges in the SEC and ACC is by providing endowed scholarships to the participating schools each year.  For each appearance a school makes in the bowl game, a $100,000 scholarship is endowed at the school, which is perpetual in duration.*

Perhaps the biggest impact made by the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, however, is its involvement in the Play It Smart program.  Run by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Inc., Play It Smart’s mission is to “”to promote the power of amateur football in developing the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive zeal and the drive for academic excellence in America’s young people.”  The program accomplishes this by giving program participants an “academic coach.”  More than a tutor, this person goes through training to be a mentor, advocate and counselor to the student.  They help the student set goals, prepare for SATs and ACTs, apply for colleges and much more.

Since 2007, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl has spent $200,000 a year to ensure that the Play It Smart program is in each of the high schools in the Atlanta Public Schools system.  And now they’ve found a way to link this program to the colleges that participate in their bowl.  Any student who completes the Play It Smart program in Atlanta Public Schools and then chooses a school that has received an endowed scholarship as a result of participation in the bowl is now guaranteed to be a recipient of the scholarship when they attend that school.  What an amazing way to give back to the community and involve the schools that participate in the bowl!

*If you’re looking at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl’s tax returns, you’ll only see half of that amount. Mr. Garvey tells me that Chick-Fil-A provides the other half of each scholarship because of its strong desire to be part of giving back to the schools.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients.  Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

Why is Cam Newton Not Guilty of SEC Bylaws Violation?

After hearing multiple talk radio personalities declare that Cam Newton clearly violated an SEC bylaw, I thought I’d put my lawyer hat on and try to make some sense of this situation.  First, let’s take a look at the bylaw everyone is pointing to in this situation:

If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference (except such aid or assistance as such student-athlete may receive from those persons on whom the student is naturally or legally dependent for support), such student- athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career.

Those highlighted words – “receives or agrees to receive” – are the key here, and I see why it’s confusing to some.  This is one of those times that my three years and mountain of law school debt actually pays off.

When I first heard that the SEC had declared there was no violation, but first thought was that they must be interpreting this provision in terms of contract law.  It’s logical to read “agrees to receive” and think, “Hey, Cam’s father told Mississippi State he would take x amount of money for Cam to go to school there; that’s agreeing to receive.”  Not in the world of contract law, however.

In contract law, Cecil Newton’s statements were merely an offer, or perhaps a solicitation for bids.  An offer is a manifestation of willingness to enter into a bargain.  Basically, you’re saying to the other person, ”If you’re willing to do x, then y will happen.”

In order to have a completed contract, one party has to make an offer, the other has to accept (on the same terms proposed by the offer) and there must be consideration (the money actually changing hands would have been consideration).

Cecil Newton made an offer, which Mississippi State was free to accept (and create a contract), but did not.  Alternatively, you could say Cecil Newton was merely soliciting bids, which doesn’t even constitute an offer.  In that case, Mississippi State would have had to make the offer and then Cecil could have accepted.

I found this quote from SEC spokesman, Charles Bloom, in The Clarion-Ledger that confirms my suspicions about why there was no violation here:

SEC Bylaw does not apply in this situation. It only applies when there is an actual payment of an improper benefit, or an agreement (such as a handshake agreement) to pay and receive an improper benefit. The facts in this case, as we understand them, are that the student-athlete’s father, without the knowledge of the student-athlete, solicited improper payments (which were rejected) from an institution the young man did not attend, and that the institution where the young man is enrolled was not involved.

Notice I highlighted “agreement” – they’re looking for a completed contract.  Could they have worded the bylaw better and made it a violation for a student-athlete or his parent to solicit an offer?  Of course, and I would imagine that’s what they’re planning to do now that they’re saying they’re going to revisit the provision. This is absolutely a loophole they need to close.

Could they have interpreted this bylaw differently and declared Cam Newton in violation because of his father’s actions?  Sure, but they would have opened themselves to a lawsuit by Cam and possibly Auburn.  The decision may defy logic for some, but it was absolutely the decision the SEC  had to make in order to protect itself.