Judge Grants Class Certification in NCAA Scholarships Class-Action Lawsuit

Suit alleging NCAA antitrust violations to Grants-in-Aid allowed to continue for three classes of Division 1 student-athletes

SEATTLE – 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.

The firm began the effort to aid student-athletes in 2014 and has also been appointed lead counsel for the group of consolidated plaintiffs in the suit alleging that the NCAA and its member conferences violate national antitrust laws in unlawfully capping the value of athletic scholarships or Grants-in-Aid (GIAs).

“This is an enormous win for student-athletes everywhere,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “For too long, the NCAA has taken advantage of scholarship protocols that we believe are in direct violation of national antitrust laws – effectively cheating student-athletes who receive scholarships by thousands of dollars each, each year.”

Three classes of plaintiffs include thousands of potential class members – any and all NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football players, NCAA Division I men’s basketball players and NCAA Division I women’s basketball players who, received or will receive a written offer for a full grant-in-aid from any time from the date of the complaint through the date of the final judgment.

The suit alleges that the NCAA and these five power conferences have systematically colluded to disrupt the free market and deprive FBS football players of the full economic benefits of their labor. According to the complaint, NCAA rules artificially depress the value of athletic scholarships to typically several thousand dollars less per year, per player, than the actual cost to attend an NCAA school.

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 order states, “…Plaintiffs allege in their complaints that the NCAA and its member institutions violate federal antitrust law by conspiring to impose the cap on the amount of compensation a school may provide a student-athlete. Plaintiffs assert that, without the NCAA’s cap on GIAs, schools would compete in recruiting student-athletes by providing more generous GIAs. Plaintiffs seek an injunction against the GIA cap. Consolidated Plaintiffs seek, in addition to an injunction, damages for the difference between the GIAs awarded and the cost of attendance.”

“Here, although Defendants suggest that class members might prefer to leave an unlawful restraint in place because they otherwise would have to compete against one another, such preference for non-competition does not justify denying injunctive relief class certification.”

“The NCAA and these power conferences are making money hand over fist,” Berman added. “We believe that it’s past time for the NCAA to adequately recognize the hard work of these student-athletes.”

The same court previously certified a class in In re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation (later titled, O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association), a case also brought by Hagens Berman.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 10 cities. 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 www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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