Court Backs Campus in Former Coach’s Civil Suit

    Although the San Diego Superior Court recently ruled that
    UCSD did not steal business from sports camps run by a former men’s basketball
    head coach, certain legal questions regarding the camps’ ownership remain
    unresolved.

    The suit, filed in 2005 by former coach Greg Lanthier, accused four campus
    administrators of stealing business from GJL Sports Camps, on-campus programs
    once managed by Lanthier that registered more than $60,000 in profits.

    The lawsuit alleged that former Vice Chancellor of Student
    Affairs Joseph W. Watson, Director of Athletics Earl W. Edwards, Director of
    Student Affairs and Sports Facilities Donald E. Chadwick and Bill Carr, who
    succeeded Lanthier as men’s basketball coach, continued to receive profits from
    the camps after Lanthier’s contract was not renewed in 2005. Specifically,
    Lanthier said that UCSD deliberately interfered with a prospective economic
    advantage and “palmed off” the camps, defined as the intentionally deceptive
    sale of a substitute product in place of the original.

    Associate Vice Chancellor of University Communications
    Stacie A. Spector said that Lanthier’s contract was not renewed due to
    performance issues and negative player evaluations. However, at least six
    players quit the basketball team following Lanthier’s termination.

    A focal issue of the legal proceeding was whether GJL Sports
    Camps, established in 1994 and operated using UCSD’s sports facilities, was a
    campus entity or a private business independently owned and managed by Lanthier.

    “After Lanthier’s time at UCSD was over, the same
    opportunity to run sports camps was offered to the new head men’s basketball
    coach,” Spector said. “Lanthier believed this amounted to ‘taking’ his
    business, even though the basketball camp was a UCSD entity.”

    However, Lanthier disputed the camps’ ownership, saying not
    only that they were his own private business, but that then-Associate Campus
    Counsel Daniel W. Park admitted so in a signed letter dated March 24,
    2005.

    “The Athletics Department has confirmed that UCSD does not
    sponsor or operate sports camps,” Park said in the letter obtained by the
    Guardian. “Rather, all sports camps operated out of UCSD’s facilities are owned
    and operated by private individuals.”

    Lanthier said he maintained sole responsibility of running
    the business and was not offered any special benefits or assistance by UCSD
    officials, though they used his promotional materials to market the camps.

    GJL Sports Camps began with 24 teams in 1996, expanding to
    185 teams the last time the camp was run in 2005. After his contract was not
    renewed, Lanthier said that UCSD began “taking steps for Bill Carr to operate
    team camps.”

    Lanthier said he recruited 82 percent of the teams
    participating in that year’s camps, which he said provided the campus revenue
    from the business he had built.

    “A central issue in all of our claims were the unfair
    competition laws,” he said in an e-mail.
    “UCSD as a public entity is not subject to the unfair competition laws
    as individual-owned businesses would be.”

    Lanthier said that he had a business relationship with Nancy
    and Wade Vickery, who ran a women’s basketball team tournament in San Diego. He
    said the couple wanted to bring their tournament to a multi-court facility such
    as RIMAC Arena, and going into business with Lanthier allowed them to lower the
    cost of that process.

    In a 10-2 vote, the jury found that GJL’s economic
    relationship with the Vickerys’ camp would have probably resulted in future
    economic benefit to Lanthier. They also unanimously found that Edwards intended
    to disrupt this advantage.

    However, when asked if Edwards committed wrongful conduct by
    deceiving the public into viewing UCSD camps offered in 2005 as GJL camps,
    jurors answered no by the same 10-2 vote.

    While the jury unanimously agreed that Carr was involved in
    the marketing of UCSD’s team basketball camp, it also ruled that he did not
    market UCSD’s camps in a manner likely to make consumers believe they were
    operated by GJL.

    Lanthier said that a loophole in the law was what ultimately
    helped UCSD to win the case.

    “It wasn’t enough that Edwards interfered but that would
    have been sufficient if these had been individually owned/operated camps, but
    because of the public entity issue the only wrongful act the judge would allow
    us to claim was our other cause, which was [the] palming off,” Lanthier said.

    Spector, however, said the verdict reflects a victory for
    the legal system.

    “We are happy that the jury weighed the evidence thoroughly
    and fairly and that the truth of the matter prevailed,” she said.

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