NCAA Scholarships Class Action
Court Grants Historic Trial Win to College-Athletes in NCAA Scholarships Antitrust Class-Action Lawsuit
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilkin ruled in favor of a nationwide class of college-athletes challenging NCAA-imposed caps on college-athlete scholarships and granted their requested injunction. Read the press release »
Hagens Berman represents former college football and basketball players in an antitrust class-action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the NCAA’s most powerful conference members, the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big-12, SEC and ACC, claiming that these entities have agreed in violation of national antitrust laws to unlawfully cap the value of athletic scholarships.
Current or former NCAA athletes seeking more information about the case can contact Hagens Berman at 206-623-7292 or Pearson Simon at 415-433-9000. They can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The class-action case represents former NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and men’s and women’s Division I basketball scholarship players who have played from February 2010 to the present within those conferences.
The suit alleges that the NCAA and these five Power Conferences have systematically colluded to disrupt the free market and deprive FBS football and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players of the full economic benefits of their labor. According to the complaint, NCAA rules artificially depress the value of athletic scholarships – known as Grants-in-Aid or GIAs – to typically several thousand dollars less per year, per player, than the actual cost to attend an NCAA school.
Named plaintiff – Shawne Alston – played on the West Virginia University football team from 2009 to 2013. He played in dozens of games there, including during his junior year, where Alston led his team in touchdowns and yards per carry. The WVU Mountaineers were ranked in the top 25 for most of the season and played Clemson in the Bowl Championship Series Orange Bowl. The Mountaineers were underdogs against the 14th-ranked Clemson Tigers. Alston and his fellow Mountaineers, however, would go on to crush the Tigers 70-33 and set several bowl records for scoring. Alston suffered multiple serious injuries while playing football at WVU. He graduated in the summer of 2012, only three years after first enrolling at WVU. After graduating, Alston continued taking classes at WVU.
Plaintiff Alston received yearly grant-in-aid scholarships from WVU that were intended to cover all tuition and registration fees, required course-related fees, room, meals and required textbooks, but was significantly lower than the cost of attendance. Alston attempted to make up the difference, which was extraordinarily difficult, through the use of loans and borrowing money from friends and family. Often, however, Alston did not have enough food to eat or sufficient clothes for the cold winters.
In 2015, Alston earned his MBA from University of the Southwest with a specialization in law enforcement. Since 2015, he and his cousin have co-owned and operated a wine and piano bar in Hampton. He is also currently in the process of opening a sports bar in Newport News. He ultimately plans to go to law school.
The complaint alleges that in a market unrestricted by NCAA and member restrictions on GIAs, schools would compete for heavily recruited athletes like Alston and pay at least the full cost of attendance. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prohibit any agreement on capping GIAs and past damages for players who had to pay the difference between their scholarship and the cost of attendance as a result of the illegal agreement.
The complaint alleges that each of the five Power Conference Defendants has stated that they would implement an increase in GIAs, and that every FBS and Division I player would likely receive additional compensation above the cost of attendance, if they were not bound by collusive agreements with other Division I schools.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the defendants, “repeatedly claim powerlessness, year after year, to change their lucrative status quo, because smaller NCAA members won’t agree to the change. Were the Defendant Conferences to act unilaterally, each would raise the GIA cap above the current levels.”
The suit was filed on behalf of FBS football players and Division I basketball players by lead attorneys Steve Berman and Bruce Simon. Berman is the managing partner of Hagens Berman and the lead attorney in related cases Owens v. NCAA, in which football players are challenging the NCAA’s neglects to protect student-athletes from concussions, and Keller v. NCAA, in which student-athletes are challenging the NCAA's ability to sell their likeness to video-game publishers.
Simon is a lead partner at Pearson Simon, and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in O’Bannon v. NCAA, where student-athletes challenged the NCAA’s restraints on players sharing in the licensing of their images in products such as live broadcasts.
The complaint requested past damages to compensate class members for the difference between the value of scholarships and the actual cost of attending school, and also requests an injunction to enjoin defendants from continuing to enforce their anticompetitive rules.
In late 2017, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken granted final approval of a $208 million settlement on behalf of tens of thousands of current and former college-athletes impacted by the prior NCAA cap on grant-in-aid scholarships. Affected college-athletes can visit the settlement website for an estimated calculation of their individual recovery and eligibility. Currently, distribution of the settlement proceeds is being held up pending resolution of the Ninth Circuit appeal of Darrin Duncan, the only person out of 53,748 class members to object to the deal.
On March 8, 2019, Judge Wilken ruled in favor of the nationwide class of college-athletes and granted their requested injunction. The injunction will prohibit the NCAA from enforcing any rules that fix or limit education-related compensation and benefits provided to college-athletes by schools or conferences in consideration for their athletic services. According to the Court, the NCAA is “permanently restrained and enjoined from agreeing to fix or limit compensation or benefits related to education” that conferences or schools may make available. Judge Wilken held that “the [NCAA’s] rules that permit, limit, or forbid student-athlete compensation and benefits do not follow any coherent definition of amateurism,” and that “[w]hile the evidence shows that student-athletes benefit from receiving a college education, it does not support the notion that any such benefits arise out of, or are caused by, the challenged compensation limits.”
In re: National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletic Grant-in-aid Cap Antitrust Litigation
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