The Big Ten must disclose additional information related to its decision to postpone fall sports and do so in the next 10 days, the Lancaster County District Court ruled Wednesday.
The order comes less than a week after eight Nebraska football players sued the league on multiple counts for its decision to push back fall sports. The Big Ten must produce all documents reflecting whether an official vote was taken on the decision, including the official tally but not including how individual members voted. It must also reveal in full its governing documents and bylaws — it submitted 13 pages of bylaws to the court last week but redacted more than 11 full pages.
“The court’s order recognizes the time-sensitive nature of the lawsuit,” said Mike Flood, the lead attorney for NU players, in a statement.
The typical timeline for discovery in Nebraska is 45 days. Between NU players filing their lawsuit Aug. 27 and the Sept. 12 deadline, the Big Ten will be compelled to disclose documents within 16 days. Players’ argument to speed up the process is based on the idea that the decision to postpone wrongfully interferes with their business expectations to build their personal brands and potentially profit from their name, image and likeness within a fall college season.
Not all of the player requests were granted in the order. Meeting minutes, including audio and video recordings and transcripts, are not included in the order to produce. Players also asked for all medical assessments, studies and data between July 1 and Aug. 12 — the day after the postponement announcement came down — that went into the decision to postpone. In her order, Judge Susan Strong said that request was “potentially burdensome.”
Though the Big Ten won’t be forced to reveal how individual presidents and chancellors voted, The World-Herald and other media outlets have confirmed the dissenting votes came from Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State. The league has already submitted a sworn affidavit from Northwestern President and Council of Presidents and Chancellors Chairman Morton Schapiro saying the vote was 11-3. Wednesday’s ruling, in essence, forces the league to confirm that tally and not just one member of the COP/C.
“Requiring the (Big Ten) to formally produce a limited amount of information is not unduly burdensome and may expedite the resolution of some of the issues in this time-sensitive lawsuit,” Strong said.
The court ruling is only on the motion for expedited discovery, not the merits of the players’ case at large. NU player reps can take the suit in a variety of directions after reviewing documents of the vote and the full league bylaws.
The lawsuit’s top stated objective is to invalidate the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports. It also seeks greater transparency in how the league arrived at the decision and limited damages not exceeding $75,000.