OT: High Point sues Coaches vs. Cancer organizers

This could get ugly and expensive for the Panthers. Fortunately for them, they’ve tentatively replaced this single game with a trip to the Great Alaska Shootout in addition to road games at Michigan, Pittsburgh and Virginia.

HPU gets restraining order
By Tom Berry, Staff Sports Writer, High Point Enterprise
07/09/2004

High Point University plans to withdraw its men’s basketball team from the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in November.

The Gazelle Group, which runs the tournament, refuses to let High Point out of its contract.

This protracted disagreement reached another level on Thursday when Judge Douglas Albright of Guilford County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the contract.

William E. Wheeler, of the High Point law firm Wyatt Early Harris Wheeler, is representing High Point University in the proceedings. He said on Thursday evening that HPU “was put in a difficult position” by the Gazelle Group and court action was needed.

“The Gazelle Group cannot do anything until there is a ruling,” Wheeler said. “I have no idea when that will be.”

Woody Gibson, HPU’s director of athletics, referred all questions regarding the matter to Wheeler.

“Under the circumstances, I probably should not comment,” Gibson said. “Bill Wheeler is our official spokesman on this.”

The court proceedings stem from a contract High Point University signed last fall to participate in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and play an opening-round game at Duke on Nov. 11, 2004.

The potential stumbling block to the game was the NCAA’s “2 in 4 Rule” which states that no team will be allowed to play more than two exempt games over a four-year period.

An exempt game can be counted as an entire exempt tournament and includes events such as the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Maui Invitational, Great Alaska Shootout and Preseason NIT. They are games allowed beyond a college basketball team’s normal 28-game regular-season schedule.

The “2 in 4 Rule” remains in force despite court proceedings that attempted to eliminate it. The Gazelle Group, which has been a part of the legal wrangling, reportedly assured several schools, including High Point, that the “2 in 4 Rule” would eventually be wiped out .

That hasn’t happened. Because the rule remains, Duke is in violation and cannot particiate in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. High Point contends that it does not have to remain in the tournament because the contract states that Duke will be the opponent.

The Gazelle Group, hampered by other big-name programs such as Kansas and Kentucky pulling out of the event, is trying to keep as many teams in the tournament as possible. It contends that High Point is bound to remain, with or without Duke in the field.

In anticipation of leaving the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, High Point signed a contract to compete in the Great Alaska Shootout, set for Nov. 24-27, 2004.

According to a source, High Point University initiated Thursday’s legal action after months of getting nowhere with The Gazelle Group.

A contract conundrum
By Larry Keech, Staff Writer, Greensboro News & Record
July 9, 2004

High Point University has taken legal action to seek release from a contract with the promoter of the 2004 Coaches vs. Cancer basketball tournament so that it can replace Wake Forest in the Great Alaska Shootout.

In the latest twist in a nine-month legal wrangle, High Point was granted a temporary restraining order Thursday by Guilford County Superior Court Judge Douglas Albright, setting aside its contract with The Gazelle Group of Princeton, N.J.

In October 2003, High Point athletics director Woody Gibson agreed to a contract calling for the Panthers to participate in the 16-team Coaches vs. Cancer Classic with the assurance that High Point would play a first-round game Nov. 11 at Duke.

At the time, Gazelle President Rick Giles anticipated that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would uphold a favorable lower-court ruling in an antitrust suit filed by Gazelle in 2000 challenging the NCAA’s “2-in-4 rule” for nonexempt basketball games that was adopted in 1999.

The 2-in-4 rule (Proposal 98-92) permits college basketball teams to play in no more than two events every four years that would extend their regular-season schedule beyond 28 games.

The legal process dragged on, no decision was forthcoming from the circuit court on the NCAA’s appeal and Proposal 98-92 remained in effect. Duke had exhausted its exempt appearances and faced violation of the rule if it participated in the Coaches vs. Cancer event, so the Blue Devils withdrew.

When Gazelle was unable to assure High Point by June 1 that it would play a game at Duke, Gibson submitted a letter of withdrawal to the promoters. Gazelle responded by insisting its contract with High Point was binding.

Meanwhile, Duke agreed to play a season-opening home game Nov. 19 against High Point. But Gazelle cited a contract clause committing its teams to the tournament on the weekend of Nov. 19-20 and withheld its consent for the rescheduled High Point-Duke game.

Gazelle’s Giles was on vacation and unavailable for comment Thursday. Attempts to reach Gibson were unsuccessful.

“There was no financial guarantee for High Point involved in the contract for the tournament appearance,” said Bill Wheeler, the attorney representing the university in the case. “High Point’s motivation for playing Duke was exposure for its basketball program. There would have been a guarantee for the nontournament game at Duke.”

Nonetheless, High Point chose not to pursue the game against Duke and instead agreed to replace Wake Forest in the eight-team Great Alaska Shootout. Wake withdrew from the Alaska tournament to play in the Preseason NIT.