NCAA Uses New Supreme Court Ruling to Threaten Student-Athlete’s Lawsuit Against Transfer Rules

In the opinion of the NCAA, a student-athlete has no standing to allege that the NCAA’s bylaws unfairly prevent student-athletes from transferring schools. In a notice filed to an Indiana federal court on June 3, 2016, the NCAA argues that the recent Supreme Court decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins prevents student-athletes from using the Clayton Act to give rise to an anti-trust cause of action against the NCAA unless they can provide an actual, concrete harm caused by their bylaw.

In his complaint, former Northern Illinois University punter, Peter Deppe, challenged the NCAA’s transfer rules. Specifically, the NCAA’s “Year-in-Residence” bylaw which states that certain athletes transferring colleges must sit out an athletic year after their transfer. In Deppe’s case, he was recruited to NIU in high-school, but without a scholarship. After performing well he was told he would be a scholarship athlete and the team’s starting punter; however, when the special team’s coach left no scholarship came and he was given permission to pursue recruitment elsewhere. He was recruited by the University of Iowa, but after the NCAA refused to waive the “Year-in- Residence” rule the school stopped its recruitment. He argued that under the Clayton Act he had standing to sue over this “threatened loss or damage” as a result of the NCAA’s “Year-in-Residence” bylaw’s violation of anti-trust laws – even if no actual, concrete injury had occurred yet.

In its notice filed on Friday, the NCAA rejected Deppe’s position. In support of their assertion Deppe has no standing they brought forward the recent Spokeo ruling which states that standing requires an actual concrete injury even if there is a statutory authority providing the right to sue. Thus, the Clayton Act cannot give Deppe the standing required to sue the NCAA unless he can demonstrate a sufficient injury. Here, because the injury alleged was threatened and speculative, and not yet concrete, according to the NCAA, standing cannot exist.

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