SBD/September 2, 2014/Colleges

Class-Action Lawsuit Challenging NCAA On Football Scholarship Limits

The NCAA "faces another antitrust lawsuit that in part tries to use the Ed O'Bannon ruling to challenge the number and duration of scholarships" for D-I football players, according to Jon Solomon of CBSSPORTS.com. Former Colorado State K Durrell Chamorro "filed a class-action suit last week in Indianapolis federal court seeking damages" for D-I football players who "were impacted by the since-abandoned rule banning multiyear scholarships." The NCAA in '12 "passed a rule allowing schools to offer multiyear scholarships to all athletes" for the first time since '73. Some schools "are taking advantage of the option." The lawsuit also "challenges the yearly cap on football scholarships by school." The class "attempts to represent" all current and former D-I football players "whose scholarship was reduced or not renewed for reasons other than what's allowed in the NCAA bylaws." One of Chamorro's attorneys is Hagens Berman Managing Partner Steve Berman, who "filed a motion to consolidate the Chamorro case in Indiana with the active John Rock lawsuit." Rock was a former Gardner-Webb QB whose '12 lawsuit "alleged the NCAA's ban of multiyear scholarships and limits on scholarship numbers were illegal." Berman's latest lawsuit "cites seven times" U.S. District Court judge Claudia Wilken's Aug. 8 ruling from the O'Bannon case, which "found the NCAA violates antitrust law by prohibiting players from being paid for use of their names, images and likenesses." Berman as an example "cites the O'Bannon judge's ruling that 'FBS football … (is) the only supplier of the unique bundles of goods and services' provided to recruits." Attempts to get a comment yesterday from Berman and the NCAA about the Chamorro lawsuit "were not immediately successful" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/1).

THE NEXT BIG ONE? SI's Litan & Wertheim write nothing "looms as large as a likely federal court showdown" next fall in New Jersey. Clemson CB Martin Jenkins is "the lead plaintiff," although he "doesn't have the wattage" of O'Bannon. But what has "raised the stakes and rattled the NCAA pooh-bahs in this antitrust case is the name of the plaintiffs' chief attorney, Jeffrey Kessler." Kessler "has been fighting sports leagues since the 1970s." He "helped bring about NFL free agency" in '92, and as outside counsel to the NBPA, he "has figured prominently in each of the league's labor fights over the past two decades." Chastened by the O'Bannon ruling, the NCAA "is considering asking Congress for an exemption from the antitrust laws," much as the NFL and MLB enjoy -- though, "in the case of the latter, it was bestowed by the Supreme Court." Kessler "is not worried." He said, "It's difficult for Congress to agree on anything these days. But Democrats and Republicans can certainly agree that any system under which a coach can make $6 million, an athletic director $2 million, and the athletes can't get (cab) fare is not likely to attract a groundswell of support" (SI, 9/1 issue).
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