Daily Compliance Item- 3.2.16- Current Event

Court rejects attempt by NCAA to stop case from proceeding as class action


The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a bid from the NCAA and 11 major conferences to appeal a district judge’s decision to grant class-action status to a pair of lawsuits seeking an injunction against the NCAA’s current limits on the compensation athletes can receive while playing college sports.

The ruling was made Friday and filed with the district court Monday.

In early December, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken decided to allow the cases to proceed as class actions, rejecting the NCAA’s and the conferences’ argument that lifting the limits would result in star athletes getting much greater compensation than they can now while scholarship and playing opportunities for other athletes would be eliminated because schools would need ways to find the money to pay the stars.

On Dec. 18, the NCAA and the conferences field documents seeking permission to appeal that ruling.

On Monday, Judges Ronald Gould and Johnnie Rawlinson — without comment — denied that permission.

This means that, barring further appeal, the cases will be allowed to go forward as class actions seeking injunctions against the NCAA’s compensation limits.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in one of the two cases on Feb. 17 filed documents that began the process of asking Wilken to grant class-action status to groups of athletes seeking monetary damages based on the difference between the value of a traditional athletic scholarship and one that also covers the full cost of attending college.

Wilken is the same judge who handled the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit and found that the NCAA’s limits on what major-college football and men’s basketball players can receive for playing sports “unreasonably restrain trade” in violation of antitrust laws.

The damages and the injunctive relief are being sought in the case being led primarily by lawyers from Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. It began on behalf of former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston. Alston remains a named plaintiff, but the initial case was consolidated with other suits involving athletes in other sports. According to a revised filing of the suit in July 2014, it now seeks to cover Bowl Subdivision football players, Division I men’s basketball players and Division I women’s basketball players who received athletic scholarships. Although the NCAA and 11 conferences are named as defendants, other Division I schools and conferences are alleged to have been co-conspirators.

The related case, which seeks the injunction — but not damages — is being directed primarily by Jeffrey Kessler. It is being pursued on behalf of plaintiffs led by former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins and two current Wisconsin athletes: basketball player Nigel Hayes and football player Alec James. It covers football and men’s basketball players in the power conferences.

This article was selected for educational purposes only.

Jennifer M. Condaras
Associate Commissioner
BIG EAST Conference

The opinions expressed in the Daily Compliance Item are the author’s and the author’s alone, and are not endorsed by The BIG EAST Conference, JumpForward, or the Collegiate Sports Group of Bond, Schoeneck, and King. The Daily Compliance Item is not a substitute for a compliance office, case specific research, or the NCAA Bylaws. Do some homework, ask around, and get it right.

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