SBJ/Nov. 21-27, 2016/Colleges

Lawsuits target Duke and Notre Dame

The student-athlete plaintiffs in a case challenging NCAA rules have filed suit against Duke University and Notre Dame, seeking orders to compel the schools to turn over private financial information.

It is part of the discovery process in two lawsuits, Jenkins v. NCAA and Alston v. NCAA, that have the potential of upending the amateur college sports system in the United States. The student athletes contend that the NCAA rules limiting the value of scholarships for football and men’s and women’s basketball scholarships at the power five conferences violate antitrust law.

The new lawsuits were filed Oct. 31 in federal court in North Carolina against Duke and in federal court in Illinois against Notre Dame. Both seek either a court order compelling the universities to provide the documents to the plaintiffs or an order sending the matter back to federal court in Oakland, which is overseeing both the Jenkins and Alston cases.

Notre Dame last week filed a notice consenting to have the matter heard in the Oakland court. The Duke matter had not been resolved by press time for this story.

Duke and Notre Dame, both private universities, are the only universities in the power five conferences that have not provided documents the plaintiffs are seeking, which include television rights and sponsorship agreements. They are among 12 private schools in the power five, and the Big Ten’s Rutgers is a public-private hybrid.

“The NCAA, conferences and colleges across the country have all produced their media and sponsorship contracts,” said David Feher, a partner at Winston & Strawn and a counsel for the plaintiffs in the case. “The millions and billions of dollars paid under these contracts are directly relevant to the consumer demand for the performances of these athletes, as the California court has already decided. There is no reason for Duke or Notre Dame to get any special treatment.”

Jon Jackson, Duke University senior associate athletic director for external affairs, said, “While we are aware of the suit, we do not comment on pending litigation.” Paul Browne, Notre Dame vice president of public affairs and communications, said the school would not comment at this time.

Lawyers for the student athletes have already been wrangling with the major broadcast networks in court over protective orders for financial information that will be disclosed in discovery. The cutoff for discovery in the case is Dec. 16. A trial date has not been set, but it could be tried in late 2017 or early 2018.

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