Football and third party custodians

A consortium of news organizations in Florida are suing the NCAA under Florida’s Sunshine Law because the NCAA won’t give them the records that have been requested.

Background: The NCAA sanctioned Florida State University. The NCAA’s infraction committee said 14 wins that had been chalked up to FSU football coach Bobby Bowden should be overturned because some of the players who played in those games were later found to have been involved in academic cheating.

I’m not yet clear on what the legal basis is for saying that the NCAA (which is not a Florida state agency) should have to comply with Florida’s law.

Different claims that might be made:

Although the NCAA is nominally private, it is partially or mostly funded with public dollars.

The records really belong to FSU and are only in the temporary keeping of the NCAA. This is the “third party custodian” line of thought. In 1990, a Florida appellate court said that St. Petersburg couldn’t avoid complying with the state’s law by handing its records over to an outside attorney.

If the records belong to FSU, or were created by FSU and tendered to the NCAA, this line of thought would be consistent with the 1990 court decision. But if the records that are sought from the NCAA go beyond what FSU gave it in the course of its investigation, then I don’t see how the 1990 decision reaches this far.

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