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Oh, March, when snowbanks yield to crocuses and people dare to venture out in fewer than five layers. The surest signs of spring, however, are when NCAA basketball tournament brackets start to flood e-mail in-boxes, and co-workers begin heated arguments over which team from Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, will be this year’s Cinderella. But there’s more to debate than the last foul call. For example, can you have pools (which are legal) without gambling (which is not)? Corporate Counsel asked some general counsel who get to watch the tournament and call it work what they think of March Madness, when 64 teams are whittled down over six rounds to one champion. These lawyers may get to hang out with NBA stars, but they all agree that college hoops are the best. And when it comes to talking about The Next Big Star, or their alma mater’s chances to win it all at The Big Dance, these GCs get just as excited as any fan. PAUL EHRLICH General counsel, adidas America Eighty-year-old adidas-Salomon AG has rebounded in the last decade to take the No. 2 spot in the athletic goods market. Its Portland, Ore.-based American subsidiary has a three-attorney legal department. Whom do you root for? I went to University of Oregon, and Notre Dame for law. [Oregon's] McArthur Court is a fantastic place to see a game. It’s very personal, very loud. You’re very close to the court. It’s supposedly the hardest place in the Pac-10 for a visiting team. Your favorite March Madness memory? When UConn upset Duke in 1999. There is a raw energy in college basketball that makes it really fun to watch. … All the final games epitomize that energy. Do you participate in a pool? There are a number of pools at adidas, but I haven’t picked so well in the last few years. Last year I said Notre Dame, which turned out to be a major mistake. If you lose early on one of your key teams, you’re sunk. Does it hurt the college game to have players enter the draft early? I’m not sure it has a huge impact. … It’s not right to deny them that economic opportunity. It’s so few players, only a hundred [can] consider the opportunity.

JAMES CARTER General counsel and chief legal officer, Nike Inc. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company controls 40 percent of the U.S. athletic shoe market and is the world’s No. 1 sporting goods manufacturer. Carter joined Nike five years ago and oversees the legal group for North and South America, which has 20 attorneys. Whom do you root for? I went to Stanford, and Oregon for law. When they play each other, I think everyone’s a bit partial to their undergrad. And my daughter is at Stanford. Your favorite March Madness memory? I took my son to see the games in Minneapolis a few years ago. He was 15, and meeting some of the present and past coaches was really fun for him. Do you participate in a pool? I don’t [for the tournament], but sometimes I do a Final Four pool. I think maybe I won a women’s pool a few years ago. Does it hurt the college game to have players enter the NBA draft early? I don’t know. My bias is, I would like to see kids take the time in college. [My] selfish interest would be to see kids who are great basketball players play in college. But I don’t know if it’s in their best interests.

ELSA COLE General counsel, National Collegiate Athletic Association The Indianapolis-based group monitors athletic programs at over 1,000 colleges and universities. Cole is its first general counsel and works with one other in-house attorney. Whom do you root for? I vary depending on where I’m living, so now I follow Notre Dame and Indiana for men’s basketball, and Purdue for women’s. Your favorite March Madness memory? [My first] Final Four, in Seattle, in 1989. I had just been hired as GC at the University of Michigan, and Michigan beat Seton Hall. It came down to the last free throw of the game. Do you participate in a pool? We don’t do pools. I’ve seen so many sad stories about kids getting in over their heads [in gambling]. It isn’t something that’s fun for me. Does it hurt the college game to have players enter the draft early? As the daughter of a college professor, I’m a firm believer in college education. I do see that sometimes economically, there’s no alternative [to turning pro, but college] enriches your whole life.

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