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Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

February 27, 2008

KATHLEEN BOWERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle United States District Judge

HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge:

This extensively litigated case arises out of Plaintiff's allegation that during the 1995-1996 academic year, Defendants subjected her son to unlawful discrimination on account of his learning disability. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion [Docket Item 377] to compel the deposition testimony of a Rule 30(b)(6) witness from the National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") and the production of related discovery materials. As the Court explains in greater detail below, Plaintiff's motion comes after more than a decade of litigation and two discovery periods, and is directed at obtaining evidence with marginal relevance to the issues underlying this action. For the reasons explained below, therefore, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to compel.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts and procedural history of this case have been discussed in detail in numerous opinions issued by this Court and the Court of Appeals, and so the Court will summarize only those facts that pertain to the instant motion. At issue in this action are the policies of the NCAA pertaining to the initial eligibility of student athletes as they existed in 1995-1996, when Plaintiff's son, Michael Bowers,*fn1 submitted an application to the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse (the "Clearinghouse"), the organization responsible for assessing the eligibility of potential student athletes to participate in college sports. At the time of the 1995-1996 school year, the Clearinghouse reviewed students' applications and placed applicants into one of three categories: qualifier, partial qualifier, or nonqualifier. In brief, Plaintiff alleges that her son was designated as a nonqualifier largely on account of his high school special education curriculum, that such a designation discriminated against him on account of his learning disability, and that the designation negatively impacted his opportunity to receive an athletic scholarship.

Michael Bowers filed the original Complaint in this case on May 23, 1997 [Docket Item 1], alleging that the NCAA and the Clearinghouse had violated Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12132, 12182, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a).*fn2

Since the initiation of this action, in addition to engaging in extensive motion practice, the parties participated in two rounds of discovery -- one between August 1997 and April 1999, and another following the initial remand from the Court of Appeals in August 2003 through the summer of 2004. In addition to a large-scale exchange of documents during these rounds of discovery, Plaintiff conducted various depositions that are relevant to the instant motion. On February 2, 1999 and March 2, 1999, Plaintiff deposed then-vice-president of NCAA member services Kevin Lennon, who testified about, inter alia, the organization's initial eligibility requirements as they existed during the 1995-1996 school year and afterward. (Def.'s Opp'n Br. Ex. 3.) Also in March 1999, Plaintiff deposed the NCAA's then-president Cedric Dempsey, who likewise testified about the organization's initial eligibility requirements. (Def.'s Opp'n Br. Ex. 4.) Finally, on April 7, 1999, Plaintiff deposed the NCAA's director of research, Todd Petr, whose testimony discussed the organization's research into its initial eligibility requirements between 1995 and 1999. (Def.'s Opp'n Br. Ex. 5.)

On March 21, 2005, the Court issued an Opinion and Order [Docket Items 319 and 320], which, inter alia, granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals, which, on February 1, 2007, reversed the March 21, 2005 summary judgment Order but affirmed various discovery sanctions against Plaintiff Bowers. See Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 475 F.3d 524 (3d Cir. 2007). After the case was remanded by the Court of Appeals, the parties agreed to participate in Court-annexed mediation pursuant to Local Civil Rule 301.1 and Appendix Q [Docket Item 365], and after efforts to mediate the case failed, the Court issued an Order [Docket Item 374] reopening the case. The motion to compel presently before the Court was filed shortly thereafter. At a February 25, 2008 hearing, the Court heard oral argument from the parties regarding the merits of Plaintiff's motion and reserved decision.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Parties' Arguments

1. Plaintiff's Motion

In her motion to compel, Plaintiff requests that the Court order the NCAA to produce a witness to testify about the changes in the organization's initial eligibility bylaws and policies relating to high school students with learning disabilities that have occurred since the 1995-1996 academic year. Relatedly, Plaintiff's motion seeks to have Defendants produce four categories of documents at least fourteen days prior to the requested deposition:

1. All documents concerning the changes in the NCAA's bylaws, policies, rules and practices in place to determine the initial eligibility of student-athletes with learning disabilities who seek qualifier status to the NCAA's Division I ...


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