September 2014 Newsletter | Attorney Richard A. Pignatiello
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September 2014 Newsletter

August 25, 2014

View the print edition of the September 2014 newsletter »

This publication is intended to educate the general public and is for information purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Prior to acting on any information contained here, you should seek and retain competent counsel. The information in this newsletter may be freely copied and distributed as long as the newsletter print edition or text edition is copied in its entirety.



News to Use
September 2014 Edition




Kelly. Kosar. Testeverde. And me.

9-Mark Richt, 7-John Smatana,
12-Jim Kelly, Coach Howard Schnellenberger
Photo courtesy Metro Dade County
Department of Tourism

They made me a job offer. It was a good one. And today they are still considered one of the most prestigious law firms in Cleveland. As I was preparing to take the bar exam, I was working for them as a law clerk. And the named partner, who was my mentor and later my friend, gave me some advice. He told me to turn them down. For now.

He asked if I had ever considered getting my Master's in Law. I was almost done with 7 years of school. My undergrad at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and now my law degree at Cleveland Marshall. My parents had helped put me through school. And working every job I could get my hands on, I was almost done and not too deeply in debt. More school? No thanks.

I have three younger brothers and they were in college or about to be. More school for me would mean financing every penny of it. And hoping I could work enough to cover my living expenses. I couldn't make the numbers work. But then he told me about Jacquin Bierman. And I realized I couldn't afford not to.

Jacquin D. Bierman graduated first in his class at NYU. He received his law degree from Yale where he was editor of the Yale Law Quarterly. His career began with the IRS in Washington DC, where Mr. Bierman was involved in many important projects. One of those includes the excess profits tax regulations, which helped pay for WWII. And he was instrumental in creating the NYU Masters in Law program in taxation.

Today few go on for a post law degree. Back then even fewer did. I talked to my parents who were supportive. But we all knew, if I did this, I was on my own. Just as I was ready to go, Mr. Bierman left for the University of Miami in Florida to start the program there. He was one of the reasons to continue my education. So I followed him.

I didn't know it then, but I was about to be in the right place, at the right time.

On a break from school, I went to Tampa to see the Florida State Power Lifting Championships. I had set my records. And they still stood. I didn’t feel like I had anything left to prove. But I felt like I still had something to contribute to the guys who were competing. I stopped and helped a competitor. Wrapped his knees. His wrists. He was nervous and I talked him through it. I didn't know him. But he knew who I was.

After he competed, he asked what I was doing in Florida. I told him I was in graduate law school at the U of M. That competitor was Ray Ganong, the strength and conditioning coach for the University of Miami football team. And he invited me to work out in the team's weight room for as long as I wanted while I was at the school. It was located close to my dorm. And totally off limits to anyone not on the football team.

Back in 1979, The University of Miami had a decision to make. They were a Division 1 team but game attendance was dropping. The team was known for never winning the big games. Or the close ones. Just a few years earlier, the school had considered eliminating the football program completely. Howard Schnellenberger was hired as Coach to keep their Division 1 status. And when hired, he predicted a national championship within 5 years.

Howard arrived with an impressive history including as offensive coordinator at Alabama winning three national champsionships. Then hired by Don Shula as the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, he helped coach the Dolphins to a perfect 1972 season and a Super Bowl victory.

At the University of Miami, Howard employed a boot camp methodology. It was an "us versus them" attitude in that locker room. And he kept his locker room and weight room for the football team only. And me.

While there, Howard created what he called the "State of Miami", a zone around his players. His methods revolutionized how colleges recruited. Those methods are still used today. Recruited during those years? Jim Kelly in 1979. And Bernie Kosar in 1982. And just as I was finishing the program Vinnie Testaverde in 1983.

The fist time I saw Bernie Kosar he walked into the weight room and through the door to see the trainer. He was nursing a bad shoulder. And as a high school student, they brought Vinnie Testaverde down and put him through drills on the field before he decided to pick Miami.

Financing my degree kept me focused. I studied. And when I couldn't stand it anymore, I went to the weight room. Also recruited in 1979? John Smatana of Nordonia. John had been widely recruited as an all district quarterback. He received a full scholarship to the University of Miami. A depth chart from the 1983 team shows John as the starter ahead of future NFL star Eddie Brown.

Watching Jim Kelly at practice, John said that he knew he'd better never miss a class. He was not going to have a future in football. But John stuck it out. While earning a business finance degree, he lettered three years.

Miami started the 1983 season unranked. Miami lost their first game 28-3. They went on to win the next 10 games, including a 20-0 victory over Notre Dame. That win earned them a ticket to the 1984 Orange Bowl where Miami would play the undefeated, defending national champion Nebraska.

Miami's first national championship remained a long shot. They entered the game ranked fifth in the nation. Nebraska was ranked number one, they had that year’s Heisman trophy winner, and they were favored by as much as 19 ½ points. Absolutely no one thought Miami could win. No one except Coach Howard Schnellenberger and the team. They believed it inside that locker room. And they had something to prove.

Just four hours before the Orange Bowl game kicked off, number two ranked Georgia lost in an upset putting the Miami-Nebraska game in the spotlight. Bernie Kosar had been redshirted the previous year. He was playing as a freshman, and his passing had Miami winning with a 17–0 lead. Nebraska fought back. And then, with 48 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Nebraska scored a touchdown to make it 31–30 with Miami holding the lead. Nebraska, being ranked number one in the nation, only needed to kick the extra point to tie the game. A tie game would put Nebraska in position to win the national championship. Instead, Nebraska decided to go for the win and attempt a two-point conversion. At the last second, Miami tipped away the pass in the end zone which saved the game.

It has been called the most exciting college football game ever played. That game put the University of Miami on the national college football stage. Miami won that national championship and that win would be the first of the school's five national football championships.

Those years changed my life. I never imagined I would use the public finance law, or bond and note financing practices for cities that we were learning. When I returned home after completing the program, my uncle gave me tickets to a fundraiser. He had paid for them and couldn't go himself. The event would have free food and drinks. So yes, I was definitely going.

At the fundraiser, then Mayor John Kelly walked up to me and introduced himself. He heard I was back from graduate law school. And he asked me, "Have you ever thought about running for public office?"

I didn't know it then, but I was in the right place, at the right time.

Richard A. Pignatiello's signature

Johnnyville Woods
"Because Men Have Mantles"

What do you do after you've been a member of the 1983 National Champion University of Miami Football Team? If you're John Smatana, the answer is everything. And you come back to Cleveland to do it.

I met John more than 40 years ago when he was playing high school football and attracting national attention. John was being recruited by every college in the country. The night before players were signing their national letter of intent, John's parent’s phone was ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to know what John was going to do. Especially Todd Blackledge, who would eventually go on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs and then Pittsburgh Steelers. Todd did not want to pick the same school and end up playing second string to John.

To say that John is enthusiastic and passionate about everything he does is a disservice to John. John empowers. He preaches positivity and possibility. He creates an environment where success is a natural breeding ground for ideas and people. His latest creation benefits community as well as feeds John's desire for artistic control and business excellence. Meet Johnnyville Woods. John took a store front location in Ohio City and turned it from a place you would run from, to a place you want to come back to again and again.

A Johnnyville Woods custom bat finds its home on the desks of Cleveland's reigning CEO's to the fireplace mantle of your child's favorite athletic coach. And bats are not exclusive to baseball. Not when John is calling the plays. There is no occasion, no genre, no idea he can't capture and incorporate. Movies and Music. Charities and Corporations. All have a story to tell or a memory to make. Each bat is hand sanded and John's custom blended proprietary stains make a Johhnyville Woods bat a piece to cherish. A story bat, is just that. Telling a story of someone's life. A treasure to display. And the one who gave such a personalized gift is unforgettable. Just like John.

Johnnyville Woods, 1826 West 25th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113     (216) 470-4838

Columbus Day Dinner at D'Agnese Party Center

Are College Athletes Employees of the University?

In January 2014, Northwestern University football players, with the financial backing of the United Steelworkers Union, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to have collegiate student-athletes recognized as unionized workers. The prospective union calls itself the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA).

While Northwestern University officials acknowledge that the players raise issues worthy of discussion, they don’t believe the players meet the definition of “employees” and feel that collective bargaining is not the proper avenue to address their concerns. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) concurs and also points out that student-athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation.

CAPA is demanding limited contact at football practices and additional independent concussion experts working the games. They also want medical expenses associated with sports-related injuries to be paid by the school, and that athletic scholarships include expenses such as travel and laundry fees, among others.

For now, the sensitive issue of student-athletes getting paid is being avoided, but it looms large. College football generates huge revenues that further the cause of the universities. If not for the players, the multimillions generated would not exist. However, players do receive an opportunity for an education that can affect the rest of their lives, often at institutions where
their enrollment may have been declined otherwise.

Other questions surface as well. Would athletes who compete in sports that don’t generate a lot of revenue be considered employees? What about students on non-athletic scholarships? Would public institutions be affected (the NLRA does not cover public-sector employees)?

It may take years before a decision is reached, with many interested parties paying close attention.

Contact Attorney Richard A. Pignatiello Today

We invite you to contact the Ohio law office of Richard A. Pignatiello at 216-524-1000 to schedule a free, initial consultation with our lawyer regarding your legal needs. We return phone calls within 24 hours. In addition to our regular office hours, evening and weekend appointments are available upon request. We offer payment plans.

The law office of Richard A. Pignatiello is based in Seven Hills, Ohio. We represent clients throughout the cities of Independence, Bedford, Parma, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, North Royalton, Strongsville, Berea, Middleburg Heights, and Valley View, as well as Cuyahoga County and Medina County.

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