College Athletes Move to Force America East Conference Commissioner to Testify

On August 22, 2018, a class of college athletes filed a motion to compel the testimony of Amy Huchthausen, Commissioner of the NCAA America East Conference. According to the motion, the NCAA canceled Ms. Huchthausen’s deposition two days before she was scheduled to be deposed. The NCAA claimed that she was no longer going to be called as a witness at the upcoming college athlete’s compensation trail, a stark contrast to their previous statements.

As we have previously reported, a class of college athletes are attempting to obtain a judgement that would lift the cap on college athlete’s compensation. Back in January, Judge Claudia Wilken presided over a hearing where the lawyers representing the college athletes argued that after the since the NCAA decided to allow athletes to receive gifts that were not tethered to educational costs, the NCAA must now justify why additional compensation should not be allowed. Lawyers for the NCAA argued that the class of players was playing a game of “whack-a-mole,” going from benefit by benefit to determine what the NCAA should, and should not, provide to college athletes.

According to their motion to compel, “Ms. Huchthausen has made recent public statements that will directly contradict at least one of [the NCAA’s] core claims at trial.” Reportedly, in February 2018, Ms. Huchthausen appeared on a panel, where the topic was “Life of the College Student Athlete” and is described as “explor[ing] the current state of amateurism in the United States as well as the intersection of interest between schools and their athletes from the perspective of both former players and administrators.” During the panel discussion, a moderator asked Ms. Huchthausen the following question – “what would be the impact of allowing revenue generating athletes at power five schools to get paid?” According to the motion, Ms. Huchthausen gave “an extended, thoughtful answer,” where Ms. Huchthausen never intimated that consumer demand would be adversely impacted whatsoever or that ‘academic integration’ would suffer in any way. In fact, “Ms. Huchthausen said that for mid-major conferences … things would not actually look much different.”

Further, the motion explains that Ms. Huchthausen’s public statements expressly contradict NCAA claims that if some schools elect to pay players, it would cause an adverse impact on other conferences whose schools chose not to pay student athletes. Ms. Huchthausen explained that it might benefit schools with fewer resources if other schools with greater resources paid players. Ms. Huchthausen allegedly said, it might “‘equalize some things from a competitive standpoint because they [the power five conference schools] won’t be able to spend money on ten nutritionists because they’re going to have to . . . give some of that money to student athletes in this model.’”

According to the college-athlete’s motion, “it is unclear what triggered [the NCAA’s] last minute cancellation.” For more than two months, the NCAA has represented that Ms. Huchthausen would testify about “‘the negative consequences that would occur in conferences like the America East Conference if nationally applicable rules were disallowed and rules were developed and enforced merely on a conference-by-conference or college-by-college basis.’”

The college-athlete’s asked Judge Wilken to order Ms. Huchthausen to provide live trial testimony from a remote location or compel her to provide deposition testimony.

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