Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Duke Basketball Successful ON The Court; Football Successful IN The Court.

On September 7, 2002, before a home crowd of 25,486, the Duke Blue Devils football team went down in defeat to the University of Louisville Cardinals by the lopsided score of 40-3. Duke, was contractually bound to play Louisville three more times (2007, 2008, and 2009). But, apparently seeking to avoid any further embarrassment, Duke notified Louisville that it would breach the contract.  The contract had a liquidated damages provision that required Duke to pay Louisville $150,000 per cancelled game, if Louisville, in good faith, could not schedule a replacement game with a "team of similar stature." In Louisville's estimation, a  team of similar stature apparently meant a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly 1A) team from a Bowl Championship Series conference. However, Duke's lawyers took an interesting position. They argued that Duke football was so bad, that pretty much any college team would qualify as a "team of similar stature."

UL posed the following interrogatory in discovery: 
List all college varsity football teams (as that term is used in the agreement) considered by Duke to be a "team of similar stature" to Duke.

Duke responded:
Duke states that any and all college varsity teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) are teams of a 'similar stature' to Duke. . . . Additionally, Duke states that any and all college varsity football teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) that would be considered as good or better than Duke in football. . . are teams of a 'similar stature' to Duke. . . . [J]unior varsity programs of any of the aforementioned teams would not be teams of a 'similar stature' to Duke's varsity college football team.

Therefore, according to Duke, UL should have been able to schedule anyone and relieve Duke of its obligation to pay damages. The Court agreed.

UL's Law School dean disagreed, writing in his blog:

Strictly as a football fan, albeit one who is a Louisville Cardinals partisan, I respectfully disagree with Judge Shepherd. There is no adequate substitute for Duke football, a patsy nonpareil in college football. There simply is no other (1) Division I-A team (2) that plays such appallingly bad football (3) so consistently and persistently (4) all while maintaining its membership in a Bowl Championship Series conference.
As pleased as I am to witness a revival of the Louisville-Memphis rivalry, an old Metro Conference basketball grudge match moved to the gridiron, what I really want is a series of virtually guaranteed wins against the worst major college football team. And that team, despite its university's immense wealth and its city's sports tradition (think of Bull Durham and the 1942 Rose Bowl), is the Duke Blue Devils.

Judging from this recent article, searching for the proper "patsy" football opponent is a matter of art - and broken legal commitments. The implications of this decision on future football scheduling contracts is also a topic of important research. 

Watch the video below and hear Duke's lawyer urge the court to take judicial notice that Duke is "the worst football team in division 1 football."

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