College sports and promissory estoppel

Hey, what’s up? We are attending the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Academy of Legal Studies in Business (#SEALSB2016) in Durham, N.C. this weekend. Our favorite talk so far has been Joseph Long’s presentation on promissory estoppel and the 2015-16 Lousiville basketball season. In summary, Prof Long posed a variant of the following problem: what if a college soccer coach promises a potential star recruit the opportunity to start on the team, and the recruit then joins the team based on this promise? Now, suppose a sex scandal erupts (involving the coach but not the recruit), causing the college to cancel the team’s season. Does the recruit have a legal cause of action against the university under the doctrine of promissory estoppel? According to this common law doctrine, a promise is enforceable by law, even if made without formal consideration, when a promisor (the coach) has made a promise to a promisee (the recruit) who then relies on that promise to his subsequent detriment.

Image credit: Matthew LaMieux

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