Court Grants Sweeping Win to Student-Athletes in NCAA Scholarships Class-Action Lawsuit


SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken overseeing a nationwide class action regarding NCAA-imposed caps to student-athletes’ scholarships today ruled in favor of the class of student-athletes granting their motion for summary judgement, finding the NCAA’s actions to be  anticompetitive, causing student-athletes to be compensated less than they would be without the challenged rules, according to Hagens Berman.

The ruling clears the way for attorneys to  go to trial in December of this year.

“We consider this a home run win, as the court granted us a victory on every critical issue we sought,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, and attorney representing the class of student-athletes. “A key part of Judge Wilken’s order is that the court recognizes that our alternative of individual conferences being allowed to decide what is in the best interest of the student-athletes is a viable option, and we will be allowed to show that to be the case at trial.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Steve Berman of Hagens Berman and Jeff Kessler of Winston & Strawn.

The judge’s ruling will put front and center at trial plaintiffs’ proposed less-restrictive alternative of allowing the Division I conferences, rather than the NCAA, to set the rules regulating education and athletic participation expenses that the member institutions may provide.

The judge’s order states: "Plaintiffs argue that this alternative would be substantially less restrictive because it would allow conferences to compete to implement rules that attract student-athletes while still maintaining the popularity of college sports and balancing the integration of academics and athletics.”

“To support their argument that such autonomy is viable as a less restrictive alternative to NCAA regulations, Plaintiffs have identified new NCAA Bylaws, adopted on August 7, 2014 (after the O’Bannon trial), that grant the Power Five Conferences autonomy to adopt or amend rules on a variety of topics.”

According to attorneys, the ruling from Judge Wilken sides with plaintiffs in recognizing that the NCAA’s rules and behavior with regards to student-athletes’ scholarships constituted an anticompetitive agreement with tangible effects, and restrain athletes and limit athletes’ compensation.

“We’ve proven to the court already that the NCAA’s actions constitute anticompetitive behavior causing injury to student-athletes,” Berman said. “Now, the court will put the NCAA to the test to prove its rationalization for the scholarship caps is justified.”

The first-of-its-kind suit alleges the NCAA and its most powerful conference members the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big-12, SEC and ACC systematically colluded to disrupt the free market and robbed NCAA Division I players of the full economic benefits of their labor. The lawsuit argues that in a just scenario, free of the NCAA’s antitrust collusion, schools would gladly compete for the attendance of talented student-athletes by at least providing the full cost of attendance through Grants in Aid (GIAs).

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

Affected NCAA student-athletes can visit the settlement website for a more specific calculation of their individual recovery and eligibility. 

The case specifically affects all Division I collegiate athletes who played men’s or women’s basketball, or Football Bowl Subdivision football between Mar. 5, 2010 and the date of preliminary approval of the settlement, Mar. 21, 2017, and who received from an NCAA member institution for at least one academic term (such as a semester or quarter) (1) a full athletics GIA required by NCAA rules to be set at a level below the cost of attendance, and/or (2) an otherwise full athletics GIA.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 11 cities across the country. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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Case Timeline

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 $209 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