Bumped. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
During this bye week, I want to take a trip down memory lane. Maybe you remember when you heard that Eddie Vanderdoes had been cleared to play this year. I certainly do. We were all thrilled that he was going to be a Bruin, but many were resigned to have to wait to watch him crush offensive linemen until next year. Appeals had been denied, Brian Kelly was not going to budge, there wasn't much hope to see Eddie playing on Saturday this year. Then suddenly, on July 30th, the NCAA did the improbable and cleared Eddie to play. Elation erupted across this page and we got a huge boost on the defensive line.
As you may know, Eddie went to my high school in Auburn, CA. Auburn's not a large city and having a national top 10 prospect coming out of my small town high school certainly was the buzz of my town. Many people (including my dad) from the town showed up to his hat ceremony when he picked to go to Notre Dame. It was a pretty electric story there.
So I wasn't terribly surprised when my mother texted me after Eddie was cleared that a close family friend had served as Eddie's lawyer in his final appeal with the NCAA. Sandy Amara has practiced law with her husband in Auburn since I was in elementary school and has known me since I was eight. Her son, Andy (also a lawyer now), was in my class and got to assist on the case. When I heard that Sandy was so involved in this case, I asked her if she would answer a few questions about the entire process. She graciously agreed and gave me permission to share it with all of Bruin brethren on bruinsnation.com. Following are the questions and answers from our correspondence. I hope you enjoy it.
VAbruin: What can you tell us about the beginning of your interactions with Vanderdoes family to get the NCAA to approve his appeal? Who reached out to you to get your help with the appeals process? What were your expectations for the case when you initially took it?
Sandy Amara: I was initially contacted by the Vanderdoes family in March of 2013, after Eddie Jr had requested his release from the National Letter of Intent (NLI) contract with Notre Dame. I have known the family for many years. Not having had any previous experience with the NLI or NCAA hearing process, my initial approach was to educate myself on all of the pertinent law. This took quite some time to learn the intricacies of the process. Fortunately, my son Andy Amara, who is also an attorney, had some experience in this area as a former baseball player and compliance officer at UC Irvine, and he was able to assist me in preparing for this appeals process. My initial approach was to attempt to mediate a successful resolution for Eddie Jr, since I thought that there were enough procedural and recruiting irregularities, as well as other valid personal reasons for Eddie Jr to be released in an amicable way.
VAbruin: As you were preparing to present your case to the NCAA, with whom were you in contact from UCLA? How close did you work with (football coach) Joey Montoya or anyone else from Placer High. To what extent, if any, did you have contact with the football staff or administration of Notre Dame? How difficult was the preparation for this case?
Sandy Amara: Initially, I worked very closely with NLI personnel as well as one of the athletic directors from Notre Dame. At that time, and based on the assumption that we were working toward a settlement, the athletic director from Notre Dame was in close contact with the Notre Dame football coaching staff. At one point, it appeared that we had the matter settled, but for various unknown reasons, it was never able to be finalized. Over time, it became increasingly clear that Notre Dame would not back off from their position of holding Eddie Jr to the NLI so that if he switched schools, he would lose a year of eligibility. It should be noted that there were actually 2 appeals. The first appeal was conducted without any testimony, and commenced when in early April, Notre Dame submitted a written rejection Eddie Jr's request to be released from the NLI. This appeal was denied. The second appeal, wherein Eddie Jr was allowed to testify, and I was permitted oral argument, occurred on July 29th. This hearing took place via teleconference, in the presence of 5 NLI Appeals Committee members, who are NCAA appointed Commissioners for various Division I conferences throughtout the nation. Andy and I were present with Eddie Jr and other family members. Andy and I worked very closely with UCLA staff, and in particular, Matt Elliott, in preparation for this hearing. We felt strongly enough about the merits of our case that if we had not prevailed, we would have sought court intervention thereafter. However, we were hopeful at the outset that the Committee would be fair, and decide the case on the merits.
VAbruin: On the day that you presented your case for the appeal to the NCAA, who was present with you and Eddie during the presentation? How was the atmosphere during this presentation? Tense? Relaxed? How long did the presentation last? How were Eddie and his family handling the wait for the final decision? When the NCAA approved Eddie's appeal, what were the reactions within the room? Does anything really stick out from those first moments when the approval was announced? Did you or Eddie get to speak with the UCLA administration to announce the good news or was that handled by the NCAA?
Sandy Amara: Despite being confident in the strength of our case, which included personal issues involving Eddie Jr and his family, as well as recruiting and procedural irregularities, we certainly were not sure how the Committee would rule, especially since we had been told that appeals of this nature were not routinely granted. At the close of the case, I felt it would be best if the Committee notified Eddie Jr of their decision first, since this matter obviously affected him first and foremost. I was notified the next day by Eddie Sr. Needless to say, the Vanderdoes family members were extremely happy, and relieved to have an end to a process that took almost 5 months to resolve.
VAbruin: Out of appreciation for your efforts, UCLA brought you down to the Rose Bowl for the game against Nevada and a tour of the stadium. What were your impressions of the Rose Bowl, your interactions with the UCLA football staff/school administration, and the game? How exciting was it for the Vanderdoes family to see Eddie get on the field and start his collegiate career?
Sandy Amara: We were happy to be able to attend the first game at the Rose Bowl, where we were able to see Eddie Jr play and perform well. We are glad that this issue has been put to rest, and that Eddie Jr can now concentrate on his experience at UCLA to maximize his development as a person and a football player at that great institution.
Many thanks to Sandy and Andy for their work in clearing Eddie. Enjoy your bye week Bruins Nation. As always, GO BRUINS!