An Uphill Battle: NCAA Embroiled In Federal Litigation On Multiple Fronts

The NCAA is under fire, defending cases in both the Northern District of California and the Ninth Circuit.

The California proceedings are now focused on attorneys’ fees – specifically, whether or not the NCAA has to pay them. Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins, in an opinion that referenced the popular television series “Game of Thrones,” awarded Plaintiff Ed O’Bannon $46 million in attorneys’ fees. The NCAA opposed the award, claiming that O’Bannon’s legal team – which is comprised of over 30 law firms – was overstaffed. On Monday, the NCAA argued for the fee award to be reduced. In that motion, the NCAA stated that at the class certification stage, the Plaintiffs fundamentally shifted their factual and legal theories, and that the Plaintiffs’ lawyers used inefficient litigation tactics which inflated their bills.

In the Ninth Circuit, the NCAA is attempting to stay a decision that allows college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, images, and likenesses. It is further seeking to eventually have that decision overturned. In response, Plaintiffs stated the following:

This is hardly a sympathetic position, much less a demonstration of irreparable injury … Under the injunction, member schools that have the resources and desire to offer more as part of their recruiting package will do so, unilaterally. That they might wish to avoid this sort of competition and keep those financial resources for other purposes is not reason for a stay.

The NCAA claims that allowing the players to be compensated would result in its schools being “irreparably harmed” and would end the college sports model that fans have come to know and love. Plaintiffs claimed that “[t]he court should recognize these warnings as nothing more than a frantic defendant hoping to preserve a profitable anti-competitive scheme for a few more months.”

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