NCAA Wins Motions in Antitrust Litigation

On January 3, 2018, Judge Nathanael M. Cousins denied the class of former NCAA student-athlete’s motion to reopen discovery in the NCAA antitrust litigation. The litigation began in March 2014, when former student-athletes claimed that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by capping scholarship awards below the actual cost of college attendance.

The former student-athletes wanted to reopen discovery to gain access to a public opinion survey conducted by the NCAA, which according to the players said that 79 percent of Americans believe that big universities put money ahead of student-athletes. However, Judge Cousins denied the motion because the discovery period in the case had already lasted more than two years and the survey in question was conducted eight months after the discovery period had closed. Under California law, a plaintiff can petition the court to reopen discovery as long as the plaintiff can establish “good cause” to conduct discovery after the deadline. According to Judge Cousins, the former players failed to do so; “plaintiffs [did] not explain why they need the survey results on top of all the other fact and expert discovery they have already learned.”

The recent ruling is just part of the ongoing push against the NCAA’s student-athlete compensation rules. Back in November 2017, Judge Claudia Wilken approved a $209 million settlement for student-athletes against the NCAA and eleven athletic conferences. Under the November settlement, division one student-athletes would be allowed to obtain an amount up to the full cost of paying for a college education if their original scholarship did not cover the cost. Further, on January 16, Judge Wilken is scheduled to hold hearings on motions for summary judgment on a different class action suit that also challenges the NCAA’s compensation rule for student-athletes. Considering the NCAA is expected to make millions in the upcoming College Football Playoff National Championship and March Madness Tournament, it seems likely that the debate and litigation over student-athlete compensation will continue.

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