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NCAA Reworks Legal Shop Amid High Court Ruling, Biden Nomination

June 24, 2021, 8:52 PM

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, whose top in-house lawyer is preparing for a potential role in the Biden administration, has appointed general counsel Scott Bearby to the position of interim senior vice president of legal affairs.

Bearby has spent more than 22 years at the Indianapolis-based nonprofit, which acts as the governing body for U.S. college sports. He took on the new role in May, according to the NCAA’s website, which states that Bearby oversees hearing operations, human resources, and the organization’s office of legal affairs.

Donald Remy, a former U.S. Army captain serving as the NCAA’s chief operating and legal officer, was nominated for a deputy secretary role at the Veterans Affairs Department in April. He is still awaiting Senate confirmation, a process that has reportedly been stalled in Washington.

The NCAA has been locked in a long-running legal battle over paying college athletes.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week cleared a path for some athletes to be paid for certain education-related expenses in a unanimous antitrust decision. The NCAA is also trying to navigate a similar debate over whether athletes can be compensated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, whose contract in April was extended through 2025, said after the court decisionthat the Indianapolis-based organization remains “committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.”

Remy joined the NCAA in 2011 as general counsel and vice president of legal affairs, having previously been a partner at Latham & Watkins in Washington.

He earns more than $1.8 million per year in salary from the NCAA, according to a financial disclosure form filed as part of his Veterans Affairs confirmation process. Remy also disclosed that he’s a director for the Garretson Resolution Group Inc., a health care compliance and claims administrator.

New Leadership Roles

Bearby is one of at least four senior NCAA executives to have the “interim” tag before their title and position. Others include Cari Van Senus, a former vice president of policy and chief of staff at the NCAA who in May became interim senior vice president of policy and governance. Van Senus, who is not a lawyer, has held a variety of roles in her nearly 11 years at the organization.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the new titles for Bearby and Van Senus to Bloomberg Law but declined to discuss the interim “tag” or if the organization is considering hiring others for those positions.

Bearby previously was the NCAA’s primary legal counsel for championship media, marketing, licensing, and event agreements. Those deals have pumped billions of dollars into the NCAA’s coffers and those of its member schools.

A veteran former NCAA lawyer, who requested anonymity in discussing the NCAA’s operations, said its top legal and operations roles were “combined within the last few years and could be split apart again to hire a COO to help run the national office,” with in-house legal responsibilities being kept separate.

The NCAA promoted Remy in February 2019 to COO, a position he assumed in tandem with his legal chief role and which made him second-in-command to Emmert, the organization’s president since 2010. That same month the NCAA elevated Van Senus, its chief of staff, to the additional role of vice president of policy.

Other lawyers leaving the NCAA in recent months include Joel McGormley, a longtime managing director of its Office of the Committee on Infractions, who in May became an Indianapolis-based general counsel for the Indiana Department of Child Services. Michael Sheridan, an associate director of enforcement at the NCAA, left in December to become a senior counsel in the collegiate sports practice at Bond, Schoeneck & King, a law firm with longstanding ties to the NCAA.

Big Legal Bills

Federal tax filings show that Latham, Remy’s former firm, has been paid nearly $41 million by the NCAA in legal fees since 2012. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, one of several firms representing the NCAA before the Supreme Court, has received at least $37 million since 2014, per tax filings.

Latham has handled more than 30% of the NCAA’s federal litigation work in U.S. courts since 2007, according to Bloomberg Law data. Other firms busy representing the organization in federal court during that time include Skadden; Schiff Hardin; Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath; and Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone.

Federal lobbying disclosures show the NCAA paid Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck $90,000 during the first quarter of this year to advocate on “issues related to athletic scholarships, health and safety, academic success, the collegiate athletic model, amateurism, and higher education.”

Brownstein Hyatt, known for its federal lobbying expertise, received $240,000 from the NCAA for federal lobbying work last year as many of the organization’s member schools found themselves grappling with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on collegiate sports.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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