The Columns

A New “Biggest Case” for Sports Lawyer Gene Marsh '81L

— by on August 13th, 2012

When W&L Law: The Washington and Lee School of Law Magazine profiled alumni Gene Marsh, of the law Class of 1981, and William King, of the undergraduate Class of 1986, in the Winter 2012 issue, author Jake Trotter ’04 described many fascinating examples of the cases Marsh and King have handled as “two of the nation’s preeminent legal experts on NCAA compliance issues.” They have developed the nation’s go-to sports-law practice at Lightfoot, Franklin & White, in Birmingham.

As Jake’s piece notes: “They counseled Michigan when former coach Rich Rodriguez was accused of extending practices past the NCAA-mandated limits. They advised USC after illicit payments to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo came to light. And in their biggest case yet, they represented Jim Tressel, who was ousted at Ohio State after allegations that he tried to cover up some of his players’ receiving illegal benefits so they could remain eligible.”

Those were all big cases, of course. But they also happened before Penn State.

So readers of that W&L story would not have been surprised, then, to pick up the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine and find Gene Marsh’s name in the opening sentence of the account of the NCAA penalties against Penn State as a result of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

As the story relates, Gene was vacationing in a one-room cabin on an island off the coast of Maine (there is even a picture of the cabin) when the NCAA’s general counsel called to discuss the potential sanctions against Penn State.

The ESPN piece is a comprehensive report on how the NCAA came down on Penn State’s football program and of Gene’s pivotal role in the negotiations after the university retained him this summer.

Among the many fascinating revelations, there is Gene’s initial reaction when it seemed the NCAA was poised to ban football at Penn State altogether:

As he sat in his cabin, “I just imagined an empty stadium,” says Marsh, a former chairman of the NCAA’s infractions committee who has since defended many schools and coaches before it, including former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. “I thought about the wind blowing through the portals and all the economic and social and spiritual ramifications of that empty stadium. And this would last … years?”

The ESPN article is available online. So is the W&L Law School magazine story. Go to the magazine on Issuu and then go to page 20 to read about Gene, Bill and their practice.

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