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Forget the Parents, Eight Nebraska Football Players File Lawsuit Against the Big Ten

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FRANCE-ATTACKS-TRIAL-CHARLIE HEBDO Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images

This probably upsets Desmond Howard.

As reported by Evan Bland of the Omaha World-Herald there are eight Nebraska football players who have filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Lancaster County Nebraska.

Those eight football players are Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola-Gates, Alante Brown, Nebraska Basketball Star Brant Banks, Brig Banks, and Jackson Hannah.

It is noted that the most of the parents of those players are a part of that Nebraska Parents group which sent a letter to the Big Ten asking for communication or transparency or there would be a lawsuit.

Press Packet.pdf. Here is the complaint in all of its glory.

I will try and note a couple of interesting parts of the complaint if you don’t fee like reading it yourself. Get reading because it looks like they are going into court today at 3 p.m. to get the discovery process moving along.

The first couple lines of the introduction to the complaint are as follows:

This is a case in which a powerful collegiate athletic conference contends that its student athletes have no rights. The Big Ten Conference, Inc. (“Big Ten”) recently announced a decision to cancel or postpone the 2020 fall Big Ten football season and has refused to release specific details regarding the process utilized in reaching its decision. Although the Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, announced that a “vote” of Big Ten presidents and chancellors was held, representatives from multiple member institutions have made public statements to the contrary.

Count 1: Tortious Interference with Business Expectancies

The complaint sets forth that the players have legitimate business expectancies which requires football in order to market themselves and to develop their brand. As a result of the Fair Pay to Play Act, which was passed by the Nebraska legislature in 2020 and signed into law by Governor Rickets on July 24, 2020 the players are able to effectively market their name/image/likeness rights when the legal right becomes effective.

Cancelling football essentially limits their “primary, if not sole, manner in which the Student Athlete Plaintiffs can develop their brand and market themselves.”

The Big Ten’s interference in these business expectancies is unjustified because the decision to cancel fall football was “arbitrary and capricious and based on flawed data that has no application to the present setting. Upon information and belief, the Big Ten relied heavily on a study of the health effects of COVID-19 that involved COVID-impacted patients who bear little resemblances to the Student Athlete Plaintiffs, who are much older than the Student Athlete Plaintiffs, and who are not in similar physical condition as the Student Athlete Plaintiffs.”

“The purported reliance on such data, which was been sharply criticized nationally and internationally by numerous medical professions, is also unreasonable and unjustified, and arbitrary and capricious because it doesn’t take into account the significant countervailing safety issues that actually render the college football environment a safer place for the Student Athlete Plaintiffs when compared to an environment where college football is not being played.”

Count 2: Breach of Contract

Referencing “Governing Documents” is reference to earlier in the complaint when they said “upon information and belief, the Big Ten governing documents, including the Bylaws and/or Handbook, provide that the Council (the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors) is required to vote on all matters involving enforcement of the Big Ten Bylaws, Rules, Agreements, or Appendices which would: (a) reduce the amount of revenue to be received by a member, (b) reduce the number of sporting events in a member’s schedule, or (c) deprive participation of a member’s team in a telecast of a sporting event. Upon information and belief, a vote on the above described matters “may take effect only upon the vote of not less than sixty percent (60%) of the entire Council.”

So from what I can tell they do not have the actual “Governing Documents” but know about them since it states “upon information and belief.”

The Student Athlete Plaintiffs are third party beneficiaries under the Governing Documents, which means they have rights. This includes but is not limited to the right “to expect the Big Ten will follow its own governing documents and all of its other rules, regulations and guidelines; will not make arbitrary and capricious decisions; and when a vote on a decision as momentous as canceling all fall sports is announced, will conduct an actual vote.”

“The Big Ten breached its express and implied contractual obligations by reaching a decision that was not properly voted upon by its Council leadership and thereby not following established procedures and guidelines for the decision-making process.”

Count 3: Declaratory Judgment

“Based on the public statements identified above, the Council did not vote on whether to cancel or postpone the 2020 fall football season. The Big Ten has been unwilling and/or unable to produce any records evidencing any such vote.”

“The failure of the Big Ten to hold a vote on the purported decision to cancel the 2020 fall football season is a violation of the Governing Documents and the decision should be declared invalid and enforceable.”


So there you have it. Was this a waste of time? Probably, but it is probably worth it.

If you don’t follow your own rules then things generally may not go well for you.

What if the judge finds that there was no vote and then says that the documents require it. Would the Presidents then change their “vote”? Either way, this is really interesting.

Statement from the Big Ten