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From court losses to political pressure to questions about how — and if — athletes should be compensated, the NCAA and college sports have faced all sorts of potential existential threats for more than 100 years.

The difference in 2021 was volume. It was as if a century’s worth of issues fell on college sports all at once.

Lawmakers took aim at the NCAA, undercutting its ability to govern. The Supreme Court issued a scathing rebuke of the so-called collegiate model. Internally, a new era of athlete empowerment was clumsily ushered in with all sorts of unintended consequences. Another wave of conference realignment swept through college sports, causing disruptions and distrust among its leaders.

“I think it is unquestionably an unprecedented potential crisis the NCAA is facing today,” said Gabe Feldman, the director of Tulane University’s sports law program.

If 2021 was about upheaval in college sports, 2022 will be largely defined by reform. College sports leaders will attempt to redefine the NCAA. The goal is to s hift power away from the national governing body to conferences and schools, while still maintaining the association; To be more accommodating to the wide-ranging goals and needs of a wildly diverse membership, while still remaining tethered through competition.

“I see value in the national association,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “I see value in the big tent. But we’re challenged in new ways.”

Sankey has been appointed co-chairperson of the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee, along with Ohio University athletic director Julie Cromer.

That group will begin its work in earnest after the NCAA convention in late January, when a new pared-down constitution is expected to be ratified by membership. That will open the door for each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create a unique governance structure.

For Divisions II and III that will mean little change. In Division I, which is comprised of 350 schools that compete in the NCAA’s biggest championship events — such as the March Madness basketball tournaments — the transformation could be radical.


The question of whether Ohio’s new congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor the Republicans who controlled the mapmaking process drew strong pushback Tuesday among justices of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Oral arguments in two lawsuits challenging the new 4-year map showing boundaries for 15 U.S. House districts were pushed online by a new COVID-19 surge.

Justices asked how the new lines were fair to Democrats and minority voters, why opponents must prove it was gerrymandered “beyond a reasonable doubt” and if Ohio voters’ decision to overhaul the state’s redistricting procedures with a 2018 constitutional amendment effectively overruled legal arguments drawn from the battle over Ohio’s current map, drawn in 2011.

“Why would we use that as the starting point, the 2011 map, when clearly the the intervening factor was the vote of the people that demanded that you scrap that kind of analysis and you go with, (that) your guidepost is not to unduly gerrymander the elective maps?” asked Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a potentially key swing vote.

Phillip Strach, an attorney for Republican legislative leaders, said the people wanted less partisan districts “and that’s absolutely what they got.”

“The districts are a win for the people of Ohio,” he said. “They got more competitive districts. Seven out of 15 — that’s a plurality of the districts — are now legit competitive districts, even the experts agree.”

Strach said Republicans’ expert found Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown would have won eight or nine of them.

Lawyers for voting-rights and Democratic groups argued it’s indisputable that the map “‘unduly’ favors the Republican Party,” which would be unconstitutional. The two suits were brought by the National Democratic Redistricting Commission’s legal arm, as well as the Ohio offices of the League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.


Democratic members of the bipartisan redistricting commission submitted a legal brief on Monday opposing Republican efforts to have the Connecticut state Supreme Court reconsider its choice for a special master charged with redrawing the state’s congressional district boundaries.

The court-appointed expert became necessary after the redistricting panel could not reach agreement on how to redraw the congressional districts and ultimately missed its deadline.

The top four Democrats in the General Assembly said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor, is “eminently qualified” to serve in the role. They called him ”one of the nation’s “preeminent scholars on election law, election administration, voting rights, and redistricting” and that the court’s confidence he’ll be impartial is “well-founded,” despite concerns raised by the GOP.

Hours after the court last week announced Persily as the special master, the four Republican commission members issued a brief calling for him to be replaced with two special masters — one recommended by the Republicans and one by the Democrats — in order “to preserve the public’s confidence in the fairness of the redistricting process.”

The court has not yet responded to the GOP’s motion for reconsideration.

The Republicans noted that Persily’s name was not on the list of three possible special masters they had submitted for the court to consider. However, he was mentioned publicly by Democratic Senate President Martin Looney as someone the Democrats would recommend to the court. Ultimately, the Democrats did not submit any names. The Democrats, however, said the mention of Persily in a news article is not the same as formally submitting his name for consideration.


Sarah Weddington, a Texas lawyer who as a 26-year-old successfully argued the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, died Sunday. She was 76.

Susan Hays, Weddington’s former student and colleague, said she died in her sleep early Sunday morning at her Austin home. Weddington had been in poor health for some time and it was not immediately clear what caused her death, Hays told The Associated Press.

Raised as a minister’s daughter in the West Texas city of Abilene, Weddington attended law school at the University of Texas. A couple years after graduating, she and a former classmate, Linda Coffee, brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman challenging a state law that largely banned abortions.

The case of “Jane Roe,” whose real name was Norma McCorvey, was brought against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade and eventually advanced to the Supreme Court.

Weddington’s death comes as the Supreme Court is considering a case over Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy that’s widely considered to be most serious challenge in years to the Roe decision.

While that case was before the court, Weddington also ran to represent Austin in the Texas House of Representatives. She was elected in 1972 and served three terms as a state lawmaker, before becoming general counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and later working as advisor on women’s issues to President Jimmy Carter.

Weddington later wrote a book on Roe v. Wade, gave lectures and taught courses at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Women’s University on leadership, law and gender discrimination. She remained active in the political and legal worlds well into her later years, attending the 2019 signing ceremony for a New York state law meant to safeguard abortion rights should Roe v. Wade be overturned.


A Georgia judge has thrown out murder charges against two people who were arrested in a 2004 killing, barring the state from ever charging them again.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Gil McBride on Wednesday dismissed charges against Rebecca Haynie and Donald Keith Phillips in the death of William Kirby Smith Jr. in Columbus.

McBride wrote that the state’s delays in prosecuting the case are intolerable and the fact that charges were only filed after the involvement of true crime reality show further compromised the case.

“The state has had available vast public resources and ample opportunity to bring this case to trial during the approximately 17 years that have elapsed since the murder giving rise to these charges and seven years since defendants were first arrested for this crime,” McBride wrote.

Muscogee County prosecutors had asked McBride to drop the charges, saying they did not have enough evidence to win convictions, but wanted the chance to refile them later. But McBride agreed with defense lawyers who wanted Haynie and Phillips protected from future prosecution, saying he would not allow “further delay and further uncertainty.”

Haynie and Phillips were charged with murder in the 2004 homicide of Haynie’s then-husband Smith inside Kirby’s Speed Shop in Columbus. Prosecutors alleged Haynie, who was his estranged wife, conspired with her lover Phillips to kill him, shooting him twice.

McBride had already found prosecutors in contempt in June for disobeying court orders to provide materials to the defense, including evidence related to “Cold Justice,” a show that featured the suspects’ arrests.

“It is doubtful defendants would have ever been charged based on the record of this case in the absence of interest from a California entertainment studio 10 years after the crime was committed,” McBride wrote. “This order is the outcome that results naturally when forensic inquiry and the pursuit of truth are confused with entertainment.”

During a preliminary hearing in 2014, investigators said they immediately considered the estranged wife a suspect, as she and Smith were involved in a contentious divorce, and Smith claimed evidence of his wife’s infidelity.


President Joe Biden insists that he strongly believes in the rights spelled out in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that are now under the most dire threat in decades.

But he barely even uses the word “abortion” and when his administration has been asked about what it can do to protect reproductive rights, the response has mostly been that Congress must write the landmark court decision into law, a strategy that is highly likely to fail.

To women who rallied to Biden’s presidential campaign in no small part to protect the landmark 1973 court ruling, that’s not nearly enough.

The administration’s measured response to a series of major setbacks for the right to have an abortion lacks in urgency for many advocates, who feel Biden should be doing more after the conservative-majority Supreme Court signaled a willingness to strike down all or part of the rights enshrined in the case that legalized abortion.

“What we want is to see is ideally the president use the bully pulpit to talk about abortion in a strong and effective way,” said Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center. “It matters. It matters for the stigma that surrounds abortion, and it matters to show that it’s a priority for him and his administration.”

The frustration is part of a broader concern among Democrats that the president’s focus on the massive issues of the economy and pandemic response have pushed other urgent matters out of the limelight, including voting rights, immigration and gun control.

It’s an approach that threatens to undermine Biden and Democrats heading into next year’s midterms when they need to rally the party’s most loyal voters, including women and Black people, to maintain control of Congress. It’s also part of a broader problem that women’s rights groups have with the Democrats’ general reluctance to fully embrace the abortion issue in the way that Republicans have.

“This could be seen as an opportunity to talk about an issue that will be important to us in 2022,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “It doesn’t have to be at the expense of his priorities.” Cardona said “the White House and the bully pulpit and bull horn are big enough to fit all these messages.”

Energy on gun control, immigration and voting rights has been building on the left for years — at least since when President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda stalled out after Democrats lost control of Congress in 2010. But many of the expected benefits of unified control of Washington under Biden have yet to materialize.


Michigan’s newest federal judge has been sworn into office just days after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Shalina Kumar, the former Oakland County Circuit Court chief judge, took the judicial oath during a Thursday ceremony at the federal courthouse in Detroit, court officials said. Kumar, whose father is from India, is the first person of South Asian descent to be nominated for a federal judgeship in Michigan.

Kumar said in a statement that she was deeply humbled by the faith and trust President Joe Biden and senators had given her.

Kumar will be based at the U.S. Courthouse in Flint, one of five federal courthouses in Michigan’s Eastern District, which covers roughly the eastern half of the state’s lower peninsula.

Then-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Kumar as an Oakland County judge in 2007 and she had since been elected times to six-year terms.

Biden nominated Kumar in June to replace federal Judge Victoria Roberts, who has moved to senior status to oversee a reduced caseload. The U.S. Senate voted in favor of her confirmation on Dec. 17.

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