Court Grants Historic Trial Win to College-Athletes in NCAA Scholarships Antitrust Class-Action Lawsuit

03/08/2019

Attorney says ruling will “change college sports as we know it, forever”

SAN FRANCISCO –Today, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of a nationwide class of college-athletes challenging NCAA-imposed caps on college-athlete scholarships and granted their requested injunction, according to Hagens Berman.

The injunction will prohibit the NCAA from enforcing any rules that fix or limit compensation provided to college-athletes by schools or conferences in consideration for their athletic services other than cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. 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 may make available.

The monumental ruling follows a September bench trial and clears the way for individual Division I athletic conferences to independently set the rules for education-related compensation or benefits that their member institutions may provide to college-athletes, free from NCAA rules that the court found violate the antitrust laws.

“We have proven to the court that the NCAA’s weak justifications for this unfair system are based on a self-serving mythology that does not match the facts,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, and attorney representing the class. “Today’s ruling will change college sports as we know it, forever.”

“Now, college-athletes will finally be able to receive some additional benefits of competition for their services,” Berman added. “We believe the NCAA’s system allowed a seemingly limitless budget to attract top coaches and trainers, to construct lavish stadiums and facilities, and to secure the most lucrative broadcast and sponsorship agreements, but left college-athletes – the ones making it all possible – constrained behind the sham of amateurism.” Berman added, “although the Court did not allow a complete ban on any rules limiting cash compensation, this ruling should result in conferences competing for athletes by offering educational scholarships and incentive awards.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Steve Berman of Hagens Berman, Jeffrey Kessler of Winston & Strawn, and Bruce Simon of Pearson Simon.

The court’s decision followed a 10-day bench trial before Judge Wilken of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which pitted the plaintiffs against the NCAA and the most powerful athletic conferences, including the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and ACC. The court previously granted partial summary judgment for plaintiffs, finding that the NCAA’s rules inflict significant anticompetitive harm, causing college-athletes to be compensated less than they would have been absent the challenged rules. The question for the trial was whether these anticompetitive rules could withstand scrutiny under antitrust laws.

After presentation of evidence by plaintiffs and the NCAA and Conference defendants, the court determined that defendants’ alleged procompetitive justifications only supported national rules limiting cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. The court also found that the alleged justifications – maintaining consumer demand for college sports and the integration of college-athletes into their campus or academic communities – could be achieved without extinguishing all competition for student athletes’ services on the basis of educational compensation and benefits.   

The court’s injunction will permit individual conferences to set their own rules concerning compensation and benefits tethered to education, as long as the conferences do not collude with one another. The conferences and their member institutions will be able to make decisions about what is in their own best interests, while competing with one another for the attendance of talented college-athletes. The court’s injunction will take effect in 90 days unless the defendants appeal.

In late 2017, Judge Wilken also granted final approval of a $208 million settlement on behalf of tens of thousands of current and former NCAA Division 1 college-athletes impacted by a 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.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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03/08/19: 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 »

02/06/19: CASE UPDATE

On December 6, 2017, the Court entered an Order granting Final Approval for the Settlement.  Unfortunately, there was one objector to the Settlement who has filed an appeal from the Final Approval Order, which means distributions to Class Members cannot begin until that appeal is resolved.  It is now in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  In the meanwhile, Class Members can still submit address changes and substitute W-9 forms through the Estimated Recovery link.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has set the appeal for an oral argument hearing on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.  According to the Ninth Circuit Court’s website, “most cases are decided within 3 months to a year” of the argument date. 

Previously, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set the following briefing schedule for the appeal:    

Appellant’s (Objector’s) opening brief due on May 21, 2018. The Objector's Opening brief can be seen here

Appellees’ (Plaintiff Student-athletes’) answering brief due on June 20, 2018. In an effort to speed up the process, Class Counsel filed the Student-athletes’ answering brief early on June 7, 2018.  That answering brief can be seen here.

On June 7, 2018, Class Counsel also filed separate motions with the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to (1) Dismiss the Objector’s Appeal or, in the alternative, to Summarily Affirm the Settlement, and (2) impose Sanctions on the Objector and his Attorney.  Those motions, as well as a Declaration in support can be seen here.

On June 15, 2018, District Court Judge, Claudia Wilken, issued an Order imposing a $5,000 appeal bond on the Objector.  Pursuant to that Order, the Objector had until June 25, 2018 to submit proof to the Court of his satisfaction of the bond requirement or proof of his withdrawal of the appeal.  Judge Wilken’s Order on the bond can be seen here.

On June 17, 2018, the Objector filed an opposition to Class Counsel’s motions to (1) Dismiss the Objector’s Appeal or, in the alternative, to Summarily Affirm the Settlement, and (2) impose Sanctions on the Objector and his Attorney.  That Opposition can be seen here.

On June 22, 2018, Class Counsel filed reply briefs in support of their motions to (1) Dismiss the Objector’s Appeal or, in the alternative, to Summarily Affirm the Settlement, and (2) impose Sanctions on the Objector and his Attorney.  Those reply briefs can be seen here and here.

On June 25, 2018, the Objector filed a Notice that he has posted the appeal bond with the U.S. District Court.  That Notice can be seen here.

On August 22, 2018, the Court of Appeals issued an Order denying Class Counsel’s motion to dismiss the appeal and referring Class Counsel’s motion to impose sanction on the Objector and his Attorney to the panel assigned to decide the merits of the appeal.  That Order can be seen here.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules on over 12,000 appeals each year and currently has a large backlog of pending appeals.  We appreciate your patience as we await a ruling from the Court and we will keep you informed as soon as we know of any ruling or update.

01/31/18: Plaintiffs Seek Bond Against Objector

The class has asked the court to issue a $78,893 appeal bond against Darrin Duncan, the only person out of 53,748 class members to object to the $208 million deal. Read the court document here »

“There are over 40,000 student athletes ready to receive an average check of $4,000 and they are being held up by one objector who is represented by a professional objector," counsel for the athletes Steven Berman told Law360. "The objection is frivolous and this lawyer should be held accountable for the delay, that’s why we brought the motion.” 

11/17/17: Federal Judge Granted Final Approval of $208M Settlement

A federal judge has granted final approval of a $208 million settlement on behalf of tens of thousands of current and former NCAA Division 1 student-athletes, ending a novel 2014 antitrust class-action lawsuit stating the NCAA and its power conferences deprived the class of the full cost of attendance and illegally capped scholarships, according to Hagens Berman. Read the press release

“We are pleased with the settlement and look forward to distributing the fund to student athletes early next year,” said Steve Berman, Co-Lead Interim Class Counsel. Affected class members can visit the claims site for FAQs about how to file their claim, notice of the settlement and distribution of funds.

04/07/17: Settlement Pending Court Approval

With the $208.6 million settlement pending court approval in the NCAA grant-in-aid class-action lawsuit, the parties have made available a claims website for affected student-athletes.

03/21/17: $208 Million Settlement Preliminarily Approved

On Mar. 21, 2017, a federal judge preliminarily approved a $208 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by student-athletes against the NCAA alleging it unlawfully capped athletic scholarship values.

Direct notice mailing to affected class members is to begin on Aug. 21, 2017.

Read the latest press release for more information »

02/03/17: Statement from Steve Berman on $208M NCAA Antitrust Settlement

This is a watershed settlement – recovering nearly all of the damages in the case. We’re incredibly pleased with this settlement that brings student-athletes the payment and recognition they deserve. The range of average distribution for class members who played his or her sport for four years at schools who we have shown would have paid more to these kids is currently estimated to be between $5,000 to $7,500. In this area of multimillion-dollar coaches' salaries, and billion-dollar deals and endorsements, it’s time for the NCAA to treat the athletes fairly who make this possible. Only after we filed our case in 2014 did the NCAA amend its bylaws to allow colleges to provide up to the cost of attendance in athletically related aid. And when the court approves the settlement we have reached, student-athletes will finally be getting their fair share of the billions the NCAA rakes in each year in profits from their talent. This settlement is a major victory for student athletes nationwide.”

- Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing the class of student-athletes 

 

08/05/16: Statement from Steve Berman

"The student athletes who are part of this class are pleased that the court agrees we can go forward and challenge the NCAA’s unlawful restraints on the aid that can go to student athletes. In this area of multimillion-dollar coaches' salaries, and billion dollar deals and endorsements, it’s time to treat the athletes fairly who make this possible. We aren’t trying to get them cash, but absent the illegal restraints, schools would offer these athletes educationally related benefits to compete for their playing for a given school."
— Steve W. Berman

05/31/16: Athletes Respond

05/31/16: Athletes have responded to the latest attempt by the NCAA to stop the Alston/Jenkins scholarship case from continuing. more »

12/04/15: Judge Grants Class Certification in NCAA Scholarships Class-Action Lawsuit

A U.S. District Court Judge today granted certification to three classes of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 student-athletes, allowing a first-of-its-kind antitrust class action to continue against the NCAA and the NCAA’s most powerful conference members the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big-12, SEC and ACC, according to law firm, Hagens Berman.

10/08/15: Statement from Steve Berman

“Our Alston v. NCAA class action was the first case filed that addressed the issue of proper compensation for college athletes, separate from the image rights cases that we also started with the Keller v. Electronic Arts and NCAA litigation. We are pleased that the Jenkins case attorneys agree with our approach and are joining together with us. The NCAA had tried to use a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, and told the Court that the cases can’t proceed together. The NCAA has failed. Upon court approval, the two groups of attorneys will formally join together to seek fair economic treatment for college athletes. We consider it the antitrust dream team.” — Steve Berman, Managing Partner, Hagens Berman

06/04/14: Big Win for Student Athletes

"A big win in our fight for student athletes today. The MDL panel, over the objection of the NCAA and all of the Power Conferences, has ordered the cases to be consolidated and heard before Judge Wilken who has years of experience with these issues from the Keller and O’Bannon cases." — Steve Berman, Managing Partner, Hagens Berman