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Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

February 2, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge



This is the fourth published Opinion in a protracted and hotly contested legal struggle. At its core, this case tests the applicability of laws prohibiting disability-based discrimination to the practices of the National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA"). In this case, Plaintiff, Michael Bowers ("Bowers"), has sued the NCAA under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. Among other claims, Bowers alleges that the NCAA discriminates against the learning disabled through initial eligibility requirements that govern whether a student may participate in intercollegiate college athletics.

Bowers specifically targets the NCAA's regulations that prohibit first-year college students from participating in Division I and Division II athletic programs if they failed as high school students to complete a core academic curriculum specified by the NCAA. The NCAA requires high school students to complete thirteen "core courses" in subject areas including English, mathematics, and the social and physical sciences before they may be declared "qualifiers," student-athletes permitted to practice and compete as members of intercollegiate teams and to receive college athletic scholarships. *fn1 Bowers, who suffers from a learning disability, completed a number of classes in high school that were designated special education classes. The NCAA determined that these classes did not satisfy its core course requirement and declared Bowers, who was a high school standout in football, a "nonqualifier." Bowers alleges that the NCAA discriminated against him because of his disability in declaring him ineligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics as a college freshman.

Bowers has also sued Temple University ("Temple"), the University of Iowa ("Iowa"), and American International College ("AIC") for discrimination on the ground that these schools stopped recruiting Bowers to play football when they concluded that his learning disability would likely result in the NCAA declaring him a nonqualifier. Similarly, Bowers has sued ACT, Inc. and the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse ("ACT/Clearinghouse"). The Clearinghouse, which is operated by ACT, is responsible for making eligibility determinations pursuant to the NCAA's regulations. Bowers also alleged a breach of contract claim against ACT/Clearinghouse, to whom Bowers paid an $18.00 fee for the processing of his eligibility materials. Temple has recently filed and served a Third-Party Complaint against Delaware State University, the University of Memphis and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. *fn2

On November 2, 2000, I filed an Opinion addressing the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. See Bowers III. In that Opinion, I granted Summary Judgment to Defendant, ACT/Clearinghouse, on Bowers's Rehabilitation Act and breach of contract claims. I also ruled that Bowers may not seek damages for loss of a future athletic career, because those damages are too speculative. Additionally, I deferred judgment on Bowers's NJLAD claim pending further briefing by the parties. In all other respects, I denied Defendants' motions for summary judgment, leaving intact Bowers's ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against the NCAA, AIC, Temple and Iowa.

Currently pending before this Court are Motions for Reargument filed by Defendants, National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA"), and Temple University of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education ("Temple"), requesting that I reconsider my November 2, 2000 Opinion. For the reasons explained below, I shall grant the NCAA's Motion for Reargument and deny Temple's Motion for Reargument.

I. Legal Standard

The NCAA and Temple have each filed a Motion For Reargument. AIC has joined in Temple's motion. Motions for Reargument are governed by Rule 7.1(g) of the Local Civil Rules for the District of New Jersey, formerly General Rule 12I. Rule 7.1(g) provides that a party may, within ten days of the entry of an order adverse to that party, move for reargument, upon a showing that dispositive factual matters or controlling decisions of law were overlooked by the court in reaching its prior decision. See, e.g., Damiano v. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., 975 F. Supp. 623, 633-34 (D.N.J. 1996).

The word "overlooked" is the operative term in the Rule. See Allyn Z. Lite, New Jersey Federal Practice Rules 30 (2001). Mere disagreement with a decision of the District Court should normally be raised through the appellate process and is inappropriate on a motion for reargument. See Bermingham v. Sony Corp. of N. Am., Inc., 820 F. Supp. 834, 859 n.8 (D.N.J. 1992), aff'd mem., 37 F.3d 1485 (3d Cir. 1994); G-69 v. Degnan, 748 F. Supp. 274, 275 (D.N.J. 1990) ("A party seeking reconsideration must show more than a disagreement with the Court's decision, and `recapitulation of the cases and arguments considered by the court before rendering its original decision fails to carry the moving party's burden.'") (citation omitted); Florham Park Chevron, Inc. v. Chevron, U.S.A., Inc., 680 F. Supp. 159, 163 (D.N.J. 1988). Only where matters were overlooked and which, if considered by the Court, might reasonably have resulted in a different conclusion, will the Court entertain such a motion. See, e.g., Pittston Co. v. Sedgwick James of New York, Inc., 971 F. Supp. 915, 919 (D.N.J. 1997); Panna v. Firstrust Sav. Bank, 760 F. Supp. 432, 435 (D.N.J. 1991); Pelman v. United States, 661 F. Supp. 1063, 1065 (D.N.J. 1987).

A motion for reargument "is an extremely limited procedural vehicle" and may not be used to expand the record before the court. Resorts Int'l, Inc. v. Greate Bay Hotel & Casino, 830 F. Supp. 826, 831 (D.N.J. 1992) (emphasis added). Finally, relief under the rule is granted "very sparingly." Maldonado v. Lucca, 636 F. Supp. 621, 630 (D.N.J. 1986).

While the rule requires that matters have been "overlooked" in order to grant a motion for reargument, unfortunately, even where the Judges of this District have explicitly considered a party's argument or explicitly considered a certain fact, motions for reargument have become quite the matter of course within the District of New Jersey. Not only are such motions not a substitute for the appellate process, such motions are not an opportunity to argue what could have been, but was not, argued in the original set of moving and responsive papers. Similarly, such motions are not an opportunity for the parties to avail themselves of additional briefing, that is, to circumvent the Local Civil Rules governing the size and length of briefs. See, e.g., Rule 7.2(b) of the Local Civil Rules for the District of New Jersey. In short, the initial motion is the "main event," not a "tryout on the road" to a motion for reargument. See Rouse v. Plantier, 997 F. Supp. 575, 578-79 (D.N.J. 1998)(Orlofsky, J.), vacated on other grounds,182 F.3d 192 (3d Cir. 1999).

II. The NCAA's Motion for Reargument

The NCAA requests that I reconsider my ruling that Bowers has standing to sue for injunctive relief because he is suffering from "continuing, present adverse effects." 118 F. Supp.2d at 502. In Bowers III, I acknowledged that Bowers had not established standing to seek injunctive relief based on the theory that he would again be subject to the NCAA's initial eligibility requirements. 118 F. Supp.2d at 501-02. I held, however, that Bowers did have standing to seek injunctive relief based on the theory that he is still suffering from "continuing, present adverse effects" of the NCAA's decision to deny him initial eligibility because ...

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