NCAA Argues $42 Million Award is Unjustified

On February 15, 2018, an attorney representing the NCAA urged a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit to reject a $42 million attorney’s fee award for attorneys representing student-athletes. Back in 2009, a class of players, led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, sued the NCAA claiming that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by wrongfully profiting off the likenesses of student-athletes and not offering scholarships at the full cost of attending the university. In 2015, the class of players won their suit; however, they only received a narrow ruling from the Ninth Circuit. In their opinion, the Ninth Circuit found the NCAA did violate anti-trust law. The court also allowed increased scholarship packages for the full cost of attendance, but the court did not allow student-athletes to profit off their likenesses.

The attorney representing the NCAA argued that the class of student-athletes won considerably less than what they sought and should not be entitled to any attorney fees; however, if they are entitled to attorney’s fees, the amount should be considerably less than the $42 million. This is not the first time the NCAA has tried to stop the $42 million award. On March 23, 2017, the NCAA moved to deny the $42 million award because the courts narrow finding of NCAA “liability merely raised the possibility of an attorney’s fees award.” However, the NCAA argued that the limited success did not justify any fee award, let alone the massive $42 million award.

The attorney representing the class of student-athletes argued that the $42 million award was appropriate. He argued that the volume of work on the case including eight summary judgment briefs, 14 class certification briefs, and a three-week trial justified the award. Further, the lower court had already lowered the award from $45 million to $42 million.

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