Meet the man who believes he’screwed up’ college football by winning the Supreme Court case.

Andrew Coats, the attorney who successfully persuaded the Supreme Court in 1984 to enable universities to maximise football revenue, which led to a widespread upheaval today, looks back with sorrow on the historic case he successfully argued. Coats was successful in arguing that college football should be allowed to maximise revenue.

Oklahoma's Steve Sewell in action against Texas in Dallas on Oct. 13, 1984. Heinz Kluetmeier / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images file
Oklahoma’s Steve Sewell in action against Texas in Dallas on Oct. 13, 1984. Heinz Kluetmeier / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images file

The attorney who is arguably responsible for these significant changes has stated that he is not very pleased with the situation at all, despite the fact that a collegiate sports league that has existed for a century is on the verge of extinction and student-athletes are preparing for exhausting travel across the country.

Andrew Coats, the attorney who successfully persuaded the United States Supreme Court in 1984 to allow universities to maximise football revenue, which led to a money-grab driven by television and today’s widespread upheaval, now looks back with regret on the landmark case he successfully argued. Coats’s triumph led to a money-grab driven by television and today’s widespread upheaval.

In a recent interview , Coats reflected on his role in the case NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and said, “I think I screwed up college football across the board, because I think the case did it.” This was in reference to the lawsuit that he was involved in.

In a decision that went in favour of the clients represented by Coats, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the governing body of intercollegiate athletics did not have the authority to restrict the trading rights of institutions and their conferences.

Now, the once-solid world of college football has morphed into a nearly continual swap meet in which institutions constantly change conference affiliations in search of more lucrative TV contracts. This has changed what was once a stable sport into a chaotic one. As a direct consequence of this, the Pac-12, which has existed for 108 years, will be shrunk down to only four institutions and would most likely cease to exist completely.

These big deals have allowed the value of televised college football games to increase in recent decades. This has primarily been done at the expense of student-athletes, who, across all sports, regularly travel thousands of miles for routine games that were once within reach by short plane tickets or bus rides.

A ‘complete disaster’

This past week, the athletic director of Notre Dame, Jack Swarbrick, referred to the relocation of the conference as a “complete disaster.”

In an interview that aired on Wednesday on “The Dan Patrick Show,” he stated, “I think the decision-making has lost its way in terms of the focus on the student-athlete and what’s primarily best for them.” “I have no problem with there being more regional scheduling. I believe that it makes a great deal of sense.”

Despite the fact that the court judgement from 1984 focused on broadcast football, its practical influence has been felt across all programmes. Athletes participating in Olympic and nonrevenue sports have had to face an equal or larger hardship of long travel.

Paige Sinicki, an Oregon softball player, recently expressed her displeasure at the new reality of playing conference games as far away as New Jersey. Sinicki stated that she did not sign up for the cross-country travel when she committed to play for the Ducks.

Sinicki recently made this statement on X, the social networking platform that was formerly known as Twitter. “I picked to play in a high level softball conference where being close to home would allow my parents to come watch my games,” Sinicki said. “It was important to me that they be able to see me play.” “It’s disappointing to learn that during my senior year I’ll be competing against teams from other east coast schools in addition to New Jersey-Rutgers,” said the player.

She said in another post, “Just hope that us student athletes will be taken care of for all of the travel, time changes, and hours on the road we will experience weekly!”

Ben Westfall, the voice of the Thundering Herd in the sports of soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball at Marshall University, claimed that decision-makers are not thinking enough about athletes in nonrevenue sports who are bearing the brunt of extensive travel. Westfall is the voice of the Thundering Herd.

The university of Marshall is ready to begin its first academic year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, which is a league headquartered in New Orleans and now reaches as far west as San Marcos, Texas.

According to something that Westfall posted on X, “This is more than money, and this realignment does not just affect football and basketball.” “Everyone is impacted by it, but athletes are particularly susceptible. It is upsetting to see what collegiate sports have devolved into.

This money-driven path was created by Coats and his clients, which led to football being shown around the clock on television and instability within the conferences.

‘Annihilated the idea of geography’

Almost all of the games played in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of college football, are currently streamed online or broadcast on national or regional television at the very least.

This Saturday marks the beginning of the 2023–24 FBS football season with a matchup between Navy and Notre Dame, which will be broadcast live on NBC at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) from Dublin.

On a normal fall Saturday, a college football fan can plant themselves on their couch to watch a Big Ten game begin off at noon Eastern Time (ET) and stay there, with a remote in one hand and a drink in the other, until the final West Coast contest or a Hawaii game wraps up at 2 a.m. (or later) on Sunday. This schedule allows the fan to watch all of the games without missing any of the action.

Every autumn Saturday, more than one hundred games are available to be viewed if the appropriate cable or satellite packages and streaming services are utilised.
Only the most important games, such as Michigan vs. Ohio State, USC vs. UCLA, Texas vs. Oklahoma, and Army vs. Navy, were broadcasted on television prior to the NCAA vs. Board of Regents case, which was decided in 2005.

Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University and a TV historian, stated that when the decision in this case was handed down, “it opened up everything.” “It went from one game a week to eventually almost all games being on, and it obliterated the idea of geography,” said the commentator.

TV networks who are willing to spend a lot of money only want to show the most prominent players in college football, regardless of where those players are located. Because of this, a number of conference alignments have emerged that aim to maximise marketability while to a great extent confusing mapmakers.

A new reality

The most significant seismic shift was revealed 13 months ago, when, both of which are located in the Los Angeles area, indicated they’d join the Big Ten, which is currently comprised of 14 schools and will shortly expand to include 18 schools and is headquartered in Rosemont, Illinois.
The defections of USC and UCLA turned out to be Jenga pulls, which likely resulted in the collapse of the century-old Pac-12 conference, with and Washington expected to follow their Los Angeles counterparts to the Big Ten in 2024-25. Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado made the announcement earlier this summer that they will be joining the Big 12 the following season after formerly playing in the Pac-12.

The future of the remaining four schools in the Pac-12, which are California, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State, is uncertain as a result of the likely dissolution of their league. The Pac-12 was originally established in 1915 as the Pacific Coast Conference, with the schools of California, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon Agricultural College (which is now Oregon State) as its founding members.

Consumers of college sports will be shocked to find that USC may be facing Penn State on a regular basis in numerous sports while seldom seeing Stanford, or that the great competition between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could be consigned to the annals of history. Both of these possibilities will come as a surprise.

“You feel bad how far it’s gone,” said the 88-year-old Coats, who still teaches law at his alma school, the University of Oklahoma, and who served as mayor of Oklahoma City from 1983 to 1987. “You feel bad how far it’s gone,” he said. “You feel bad how far it’s gone.” “But I don’t think anyone could have possibly predicted what would happen.”

Coats stated that his side of the table, which included co-litigants the University of Georgia, wanted an out-of-court settlement with the NCAA. Such a settlement would have maintained TV negotiation power with the central college sports authority. Coats said that his side of the table wanted an out-of-court settlement with the NCAA. But after the highest court made its judgement, all decisions involving significant sums of money were delegated to the conferences and schools, which led to the radical shifts that are taking place right now.
“At each and every point, we attempted to reach an arrangement of some kind in order to put a cap on what was going to take place. However, we discovered that the acronym “NCAA” meant for “Never Compromise Anything at Anytime,” and they refused to even talk to us about it, Coats said.

 

Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University, stated that the push for additional high-profile, intersectional matchups was always a possibility, even in the event that the legal case between Oklahoma and Georgia had been unsuccessful.

“I’ll go along with his (Coats’) claim, that by arguing that case and winning it, he screwed up college football,” Thompson said while smiling. “I’ll go along with his (Coats’) claim that by arguing that case and winning it.” “But I would also say, however, that if he hadn’t been there to screw it up, there were lots and lots, crowds of other people in queue to do it too,” the speaker says. “But I would also say, however, that there were lots and lots, crowds of other people in queue to do it.”

Crawford, a historian who is part of the College Football Hall of Fame, concurred with the idea that the game will inevitably change no matter who is in charge.

Crawford remarked, “If you look at the breadth of college football, you’ll always see that it’s been evolving.” “If you look at the breadth of college football,” “Change will unavoidably continue to take place, and it will be up to individual consumers to decide whether they think this change is for the better or for the worse.”

Justices Byron “Whizzer” White and William Rehnquist were the only two justices to vote against the majority opinion of the court in 1984, which found in favour of Oklahoma and Georgia.

Coats stated that he ran into White, who was himself a former collegiate football player at Colorado, during a social function many months after the judgement was handed down, and that the associate justice had some prophetic things to him at that time.

When I asked him about it, he told me, “Andy, you might have won that case, but you’ll regret it.”