The NCAA's plan for the Ed O'Bannon trial yesterday was "to give Judge Claudia Wilken a detailed look at an ideal combination of athletics and academics" at the Univ. of Texas, according to Lester Munson of ESPN.com. But as UT women's AD Christine Plonsky described "in the loftiest of terms how Texas connects its 'student-athletes' to the values of higher education, she opened the door to a cross examination on her work on NCAA committees that considered the idea of allowing payments to players as a realistic possibility." In "articulate and occasionally inspiring terms, Plonsky started off well by describing the mission of the Texas sports program as 'transforming lives for the benefit of society.'" Her description of the "vigorous academic life of a Texas athlete was just what the NCAA legal team wanted to hear." But then plaintiffs' attorney Bill Isaacson "began his cross examination and confronted Plonsky with a string of emails about a task force that, with her participation, studied the idea of paying athletes for commercial use of their names, images and likeness." Even before Plonsky began testifying yesterday, NCAA attorney Luis Li "drew the judge's wrath with his persistent and patronizing questions" of Drexel Univ. professor Ellen Staurowsky, who has "done scholarly studies of the NCAA for 22 years." Any progress he made "in his attack on Staurowsky's qualifications and expertise was lost as the judge twice ordered Li to terminate lines of questioning." There is "little doubt that the NCAA lawyers worked long and hard on their plan" for yesterday. But there also is "little doubt that the execution of their plans fell short of their hopes and expectations" (ESPN.com, 6/17).
EASY PICKINGS: In N.Y., Ben Strauss notes Plonsky’s appearance represented "a turning point in the trial’s narrative: The plaintiffs have called most of their witnesses, and now the NCAA is having its turn" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/18). SI.com's Andy Staples wrote by calling Plonsky as a witness, the NCAA legal team "served the plaintiffs a hanging curveball that their attorneys clubbed." Plonsky's presence on the stand gave the plaintiffs' attorneys "an opportunity to easily introduce evidence that proved NCAA and school officials have long been worried about the athlete name, image and likeness market that the NCAA's legal team is now claiming doesn't exist" (SI.com, 6/17).
SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE: In Pittsburgh, J. Brady McCollough noted Vanderbilt LB Chase Garnham on Monday took the stand to discuss "the one time he decided to question exactly what he was signing" when agreeing to NCAA Form 13-3a, the "Student-Athlete Statement." Garnham said, "Senior year when I read this form, my views had changed. I did not feel comfortable signing this form." He "chose to instead talk to" Vanderbilt AD David Williams and Compliance Dir Candice Lee "about his options." McCollough wrote it is "important for the plaintiffs' case to show that, by spending 40-hour weeks playing their sport, they were essentially employees who were given full scholarships in exchange for the university's use of their athletic gifts." Staurowsky on Monday testified that the term "student-athlete" was "simply an invention by then-NCAA president Walter Byers in the 1950s to protect the organization against workers compensation liabilities." NCAA attorney Carolyn Luedtke "ended her cross-examination by stating that Garnham had gotten four years of education at Vanderbilt for a total of about $200,000." Garnham had said earlier, "Vanderbilt brought me value, I brought them value. The only difference is that Vanderbilt was able to capitalize off that value, and I was not" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/17).
Penn State AD Dave Joyner "plans to retire Aug. 1, and the university will launch a national search for his successor," according to a front-page piece by Matt Carroll of the CENTRE DAILY TIMES. Joyner "has offered to work past his retirement date to help with a transition." Penn State President Eric Barron "will name a search committee to work" with North Carolina-based Collegiate Sports Associates to recruit the next AD. Penn State Senior VP/Finance & Business David Gray "will lead the committee." In his tenure as AD, Joyner "was tasked with finding the successor for legendary football coach Joe Paterno," who was fired in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. His hire, Bill O’Brien, "had success" before leaving for the Texans. Joyner then hired former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Joyner was named acting AD in November '11, "the most tumultuous time in the university’s history." Although he "has had success with his football coach hires, he also has been criticized in the Penn State community." Some were "critical of how Joyner got the job," as he was "given the position without a search" (CENTRE DAILY TIMES, 6/18). The AP's Dan Gelston noted Joyner "held the reins through 2 1/2 turbulent years." Joyner: "I didn't enjoy the circumstances that brought me here. You never forget to be reverent and respectful of the ones there hurt. But I have enjoyed the camaraderie, I have enjoyed the honor of working with the great people here" (AP, 6/17). Joyner said, "People might not always agree, and I respect that. ... Whatever I did, I did because that’s what I thought I had to do" (CENTRE DAILY TIMES, 6/18). ESPN.com's Josh Moyer wrote the move "should be looked upon as a positive" by Penn State fans. The school "needs someone to steer the athletic program -- especially football -- to a place Joyner couldn’t take it" (ESPN.com, 6/17).
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said that the NCAA enforcement division's "ability to develop information is 'overmatched,'" and that the Big Five conferences' autonomy subcommittee will "eventually look into a possible retooling of enforcement," according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSPORTS.com. The issue is "not on the front burner just yet -- with cost of the attendance still to be sorted out -- but if Delany has anything to say about it, meaningful change is coming." Delany said of enforcement, "I think anybody who is honest about it, realizes there is not much action right now and we need to scrub (clean) it." He said it is a matter of what the membership wants "because nobody is comfortable with some of the tactics, aggressive tactics." Delany: "Some people thought they (investigators) crossed the line. Be that as it may, we have to bring cases that can be proven not just bring cases. Are there other ways to do this?" Dodd notes Delany's opinion is "part of a picture being framed in early talks over how autonomy might affect enforcement." Delany, in "an unusual relationship," has consulted on the subject with former NCAA VP/Enforcement Julie Roe Lach. She said, "Over time the pendulum has swung on how much enforcement has developed leads in cases. You can't just rely on self reports from schools. You can't rely just on investigative reporters in media. Should (enforcement) be outsourced? We're exploring outsourcing surveillance and generating leads." Dodd notes Delany "isn't necessarily high about the use of outside investigators but he does want a way around enforcement's Rubik's Cube -- developing credible information without subpoena power" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/16).
The LSU football program expects to "distribute a record 73,000-plus season tickets this year, and the school has already sold more than 30,000 tickets to the season-opening game" against Wisconsin at NRG Stadium, according to Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. The school’s "season-ticket record is 68,722, set last year." LSU Associate AD/Ticket Sales Brian Broussard said that LSU has a 98% renewal rate on season tickets for this season and "has 4,000-5,000 on a wait list, people who will likely find seats because of the new addition to Tiger Stadium." The south end zone addition "will create 5,000-plus season tickets in the suite and club levels." Broussard said that the process for season-ticket holders "to relocate" begins today and will last a few weeks. The $80M addition to Tiger Stadium "is nearly sold out." Broussard expects the "few remaining open tickets in the suite and club levels to be sold soon." He added that the suite level will "hold 2,000, while the club level will hold between 3,000 and 4,000." LSU will "move 1,500 visitor seats from the lower bowl in the south end zone to the new addition." The rest of the visitors "will remain in the east side upper deck (about 4,000) and the lower bowl (about 2,000)" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 6/17).