WR/skier still fighting endorsement ban

Updated: April 7, 2004, 9:24 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- A judge put the NCAA above the law when he denied Jeremy Bloom's request to force the NCAA to allow him to earn endorsement money as a professional skier while playing college football as an amateur, Bloom's lawyer said Wednesday.

In arguments before a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals at the University of Colorado Law School, Peter Rush said state District Judge Dan Hale improperly cited the NCAA's "restitution" rule in his decision.

Under that rule, if an athlete who is determined to be ineligible had previously participated in collegiate sports under a court injunction, the university could face NCAA sanctions including the forfeiture of games that athlete played in.

"What Hale said is you don't get to get an injunction because of what might happen," Rush said.

NCAA attorney Linda Salfrank argued that Hale's decision cannot be overturned because he did not abuse his authority.

She said the association supports Bloom's goals as a skier and a football player, but said he has to comply with the same rules as all other student-athletes.

"The NCAA's objective is to maintain a bright line between when someone is a professional and when someone is an (amateur)," she said. "It is impossible to distinguish the persona, particularly in this case when there's been such efforts to market the persona as a multisport athlete."

Suspended CU football coach Gary Barnett sat in the audience during the hearing and hugged Bloom afterward. He said he was there in a show of support. Barnett was suspended in February pending the outcome of investigations into allegations that the football program used sex and alcohol to lure recruits.

The University of Colorado, which initially applied for NCAA rule waivers for Bloom, has joined the NCAA in arguing against Bloom's case to avoid the threat of sanctions, CU attorney Jeremy Heuth said.

Bloom, a world champion freestyle skier who hopes to make the 2006 U.S. Olympic team, has been a wide receiver and kick returner at Colorado for two seasons. He is not enrolled for the spring semester but has said he plans to re-enroll and play football in the fall.

When the NCAA denied CU's waiver request, Bloom filed a lawsuit claiming the NCAA was violating its own rules. That lawsuit is pending.

Bloom also asked Hale to force the NCAA to let him play football and earn endorsement money until the lawsuit was resolved.

Rush said under NCAA rules, student-athletes have the right to be a professional in one sport, earning income that can include prize money, and play as an amateur in a different sport. Endorsements make up the largest part of an athlete's income in professional skiing, he said.

"The situation is that the NCAA has denied Jeremy what everyone agrees is customary income for being a professional in the sport," Rush said. "That to me is the beginning of the case and the end of the case and you need go no farther."

After the hearing, Wally Renfro, the senior adviser to the NCAA president, said endorsements are considered separate from athletics.

"It's making money, not making money in their sport," he said.

He also said the restitution rule is necessary to prevent universities from seeking injunctions against the NCAA just so an athlete could play while a case progresses through the courts.

Bloom, who has signed endorsement contracts with two companies since January, said he was simply hoping to compete in both sports. He said he didn't get a clear feeling for how the court would rule.

The court typically rules within six months.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press