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The three Memphis-area attorneys who pursued former University of Memphis coach John Calipari and guard Derrick Rose with threats of legal action probably haven't inspired a new trend, sports law experts say.
But Michael McCann, a professor at Vermont Law School and sports law columnist at SI.com, wouldn't rule out at least a few attempts. "Other fans are going to see this and say 'It sort of worked there,'" McCann said. "They were able to secure a settlement. I don't think it's going to give rise to courts sanctioning this, but I think it could give rise to others wanting to file a lawsuit."
That's how it paid off in May 2010 for local attorneys Martin Zummach, Frank L. Watson III and William Burns. They threatened a lawsuit against Calipari, Rose and U of M athletic director R.C. Johnson, claiming the NCAA's vacating of its 2007-08 Final Four season resulted in the devaluation of their tickets.
Calipari and Rose agreed to pay the attorneys $100,000. Calipari also agreed to donate $232,000, the approximate after-tax value of his bonuses connected with the season, to the Tiger Scholarship Fund. Rose agreed to consider making a donation sometime before 2015.* * *Mark Conrad, who teaches sports law classes at Fordham University, doesn't think the case will spawn a rash of copycats. "I certainly don't see it as a trend in pro sports ... and I certainly would be very surprised if you see this from universities," Conrad said.
Conrad noted that though the specifics of the Memphis case seemed unique, ticket-holder lawsuits aren't altogether uncommon. He said they're usually unsuccessful, too.* * *Both Conrad and McCann were stunned at the Memphis settlement.
"I was like, 'wow,'" McCann said. "The lawsuit, the claims did not seem very strong and I'm surprised that the defendants -- Calipari, Derrick Rose -- that they would agree to pay anything."
McCann said he anticipated that the case, if it had ever been filed, would have been dismissed.
But even with the perceived unlikelihood of its success, such a case would have its costs -- "at the very least, stress, cost, retaining a lawyer, time. Time for a coach, obviously, is really valuable."