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NCAA Faces Antitrust Suit Over Bowl Game Decertification

Nov. 21, 2018, 7:40 PM

The NCAA will face a Hawaii antitrust suit over its decertification of the 2003 Seattle Bowl, the Hawaii Supreme Court said.

Aloha Sports Inc. showed the NCAA’s allegedly anticompetitive behavior could negatively affect the bowl market and it was harmed by that behavior, the Nov. 20 opinion by Justice Richard W. Pollack said.

Aloha Sports sponsored the Oahu Bowl in Hawaii, but in 2001 the game was moved to Seattle.

After the NCAA had concerns about the way Aloha Sports operated the 2002 Seattle Bowl, Aloha Sports tried to sell its sponsorship rights to Pro Sports and Entertainment Inc. The sale was contingent on the game being recertified.

The NCAA refused to recertify the game, but told Pro Sports privately it could submit its own application to sponsor the 2004 Seattle Bowl. Pro Sports backed out of its deal with Aloha Sports.

The NCAA’s conduct was an unfair method of competition in violation of Hawaii’s antitrust law, Aloha Sports said.

Aloha Sports showed the NCAA knew about the impending sale, expressed concerns about Aloha Sports’s owner staying involved in the bowl game after the sale was completed, and told Pro Sports independently it could seek its own certification, the court said.

That could suggest the NCAA unfairly decertified the 2003 Seattle Bowl to disrupt Aloha Sports’s sale to Pro Sports, the court said. It also created an issue whether the NCAA’s conduct negatively affected competition among bowl sponsors, it said.

Kesselman Brantly Stockinger LLP represented Aloha Sports. Gregory L. Curtner represented the NCAA.

The case is Field v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 2018 BL 428466, Haw., No. SCWC-15-0000663, 11/20/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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