Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA

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Appeals court rules NCAA in violation of antitrust laws

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling against the NCAA saying its use of college athletes’ names, images and likenesses violated antitrust laws but struck down a plan allowing schools to pay athletes up to $5,000.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that the NCAA couldn’t stop schools from providing full scholarships to student athletes but vacated the proposal for deferred cash payments.

The NCAA appealed U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken’s 2014 decision, which came in a lawsuit filed by UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and 19 others.

A statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert says the organization agrees with the court that the injunction “allowing students to be paid cash compensation of up to $5,000 per year was erroneous.”

Judge grants joint request to expedite O’Bannon v. NCAA appeal process

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With the NCAA having to deal with multiple lawsuits that could have a significant impact on the way in which collegiate athletics are run, it’s understandable that their lawyers would like to see things move in a more expedient manner when it comes to the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last month, meaning that past and present athletes could be compensated for the use of their name, images and likenesses (NIL). The NCAA, as expected, appealed the ruling and both sides of the suit have found something they agree on: their desire to have the appeal process expedited. In the initial ruling, Wilken issued an injunction (which will go into effect August 1, 2015) preventing the NCAA from enforcing rules that would prohibit member institutions from offering recruits “a limited share of the revenues” that could be gained from the use of their NIL.

Expediting the appeal would ensure that the final ruling would be made before August 1, 2015, and according to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today it was announced Wednesday that the joint motion filed in an attempt to have the appeal expedited has been granted. The NCAA’s opening brief is now due November 14. Other deadlines of importance in this appeal are January 21 (when the plaintiffs will need to have its answer to the brief submitted by) and February 11 (when the NCAA’s response to the plaintiffs’ report will be due).

The NCAA, according to the filing, wanted the appeal decided before the association and the schools would be “forced to make fundamental changes to the administration of collegiate athletics and to their relationship with students.”

Under a normal schedule, it is likely the appellate court wouldn’t have heard oral arguments in the case until late in 2015.

Wilken’s ruling, that NCAA rules limiting what revenue sport athletes can receive as part of their scholarships violated federal antitrust laws, could potentially change the way in which NCAA members do business in the future if the appeal is denied. However there have already been changes, with the five major college football conferences being granted autonomy during the summer being the most notable.

Also, prior restrictions on how much food schools can give their athletes being removed, and other changes to the way in which schools support their athletes have been made as well. With there being other lawsuits for the NCAA to deal with, even with an expedited ruling of the O’Bannon appeal it may be years before we know see the final result of all these changes.

NCAA still dealing with lawsuits regarding scholarships, cost of attendance

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The lawsuit led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon is the legal matter that has received the majority of the attention when it comes to the NCAA, but there are other cases to keep track of at present time. Two of those lawsuits focus on the NCAA’s scholarship rules, with one challenging the NCAA’s right to limit the value of athletic scholarships and the other focusing on the NCAA capping the value of those scholarships at a value below what’s listed as the full cost of attendance for universities.

Earlier this month the NCAA cited Judge Claudia Wilken’s ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in the O’Bannon suit as a reason why the lawsuits filed with regards to the value of athletic scholarships should be dismissed. Obviously those arguing otherwise don’t agree with that line of thinking, and according to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today the plaintiffs are fighting the NCAA’s assertion.

Either of the suits could eliminate compensation limits in some sports. One of them seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in damages based on the difference in the value of the NCAA’s current definition of a scholarship — basically tuition, fees, room, board and books — and the actual cost of attending college.

Both suits, which began in March, are seeking to become class actions. One of the cases originated in Northern California, the other in New Jersey. In June, a panel of judges that deals with similar federal lawsuits filed in different parts of the country assigned coordinated or consolidated pretrial matters in both cases to U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken — the Oakland-based jurist who handled the O’Bannon case.

According to the report the NCAA has stated that Wilken’s ruling in the O’Bannon suit allows them to place a cap on the value of athletic scholarships, with the plaintiffs believing that the ruling should not impact their cases. Also of note in regards to all of this is the increasing pressure coming from some United States senators, who are none too pleased with the progress (or lack thereof) being made by the powers that be in collegiate athletics.

According to Jon Solomon of CBS Sports three United States senators sent letters to the 65 Division I presidents whose schools are in the “Power Five” conferences expressing their concerns about a variety of topics including scholarships and health issues.

Because the five major conferences now have autonomy to create their own rules, “you now possess the authority” to create reform in college sports, the senators wrote to the university presidents.

“As such, we intend to monitor your progress to see whether the very schools and conferences that are often blamed for much of the problems plaguing intercollegiate athletics today effectively utilize the new flexibility you have been granted to implement meaningful reforms to better protect student-athletes,” the letter states.

It’s bad enough for the NCAA to have the courts involved in their affairs. And if the government decides that there hasn’t been enough progress made, could they get involved as well? That wouldn’t be a good thing for the folks running the show in collegiate athletics.

NCAA, 11 conferences ask that scholarship lawsuits be dismissed

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With Judge Claudia Wilken ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit last month, the NCAA’s limiting of what scholarship athletes could receive was deemed to be a violation of federal antitrust laws. The defendant is appealing this ruling of course, with some schools and conferences taking measures to meet the full cost of attendance in the process.

But that ruling is also being used as the basis of a motion filed by the NCAA and 11 conferences named as defendants asking that two other lawsuits relating to scholarships be dismissed, according to USA Today. One of the lawsuits, which includes former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, includes former athletes in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball in 11 conferences. The other suit, which is being led by lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, covers athletes in men’s basketball and football.

In Thursday night’s filing, the NCAA and the conferences wrote that a decision in either of these suits to eliminate the limits “would directly conflict with this Court’s decision and injunction” in the O’Bannon case — although the NCAA and the conferences noted that they “respectfully disagree” with Wilken’s ruling in O’Bannon, which the NCAA had appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The NCAA’s strategy is an interesting one, especially when considering the fact that they’re using a verdict from a case they’re appealing as the reason why they want the suits dismissed. Final decisions in these cases, and the impact of those decisions on collegiate athletics, won’t be known for quite some time. There seems to be general agreement that the model will change in some form was a result of these cases, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how.

NCAA takes next step in appeal of Ed O’Bannon lawsuit ruling

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When Judge Claudia Wilken announced her ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit it was assumed that, despite what some believed to be a favorable ruling in spite of the defeat, the NCAA would file an appeal. On Thursday the NCAA acted on its stated intention, filing a notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are appealing the Court’s decision because we do not believe the NCAA has violated the antitrust laws,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. “In its decision, the Court acknowledged that changes to the rules that govern college athletics would be better achieved outside the courtroom, and the NCAA continues to believe that the Association and its members are best positioned to evolve its rules and processes to better serve student-athletes.

“The reform conversation began long before this lawsuit and the changes announced earlier this month are evidence of the NCAA continually working to improve the student-athlete experience.”

Wilken’s ruling was that the NCAA violated antitrust laws when restricting athletes’ ability to be compensated for the use of their name in likeness (NIL), and on Wednesday she clarified when the O’Bannon injunction would go into effect. The injunction won’t impact NCAA rules until August 1, 2015, with incoming freshmen during the 2016-17 academic year being the first with the ability to be compensated for the use of their NIL.

Compensated athletes can receive no more than what would cover the gap between their grant-in-aid and the total cost of attendance according to Wilken’s ruling. The five high-revenue conferences were granted autonomy earlier this month, and one of their stated goals is to cover the full cost of attendance for scholarship athletes.

Ed O’Bannon plaintiffs, NCAA find common ground in one area

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While Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, much has yet to be determined with regards to how the verdict will impact collegiate athletics. There are still appeals to be sorted out, as well as the question of when the changes that would require athletes to be compensated for the use of the name and likeness. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, both sides in the lawsuit are hoping that the changes won’t go into effect until the 2016-17 academic year.

Both sides have asked Wilken to make that clear in her judgement, which did not give a definitive start date. One would think that with the number of ongoing cases the NCAA is faced with, having more time to figure things out would work to the benefit of the defendants. But obviously the plaintiffs are also in favor of there being more time to figure it all out before Wilken’s ruling goes into effect.

In her 99-page ruling, Wilken said the injunction will not be stayed pending any appeal of her ruling, but it will not take effect until the start of the next FBS and Division I basketball recruiting cycles. In the separate injunction document she wrote: “This injunction shall not affect any prospective student-athlete who will enroll in college before July 1, 2016.”

While both sides agree on the need to push things back with regards to when the injunction would go into effect, they don’t agree on who would be eligible for the compensation. The NCAA wants to limit compensation to “prospective student-athletes enrolling in college on or after July 1, 2016” the plaintiffs don’t believe that’s fair to those currently enrolled.

“That exclusion of thousands of current student-athletes (operating under one-year renewable scholarships or multi-year scholarships) is plainly inconsistent with the Court’s injunction,” the plaintiffs wrote.

With the NCAA dealing with the lawsuit led by Jeffrey Kessler and the Northwestern football team/union situation, there are a number of “dominoes” to consider when debating the future of collegiate athletics. What will college sports look like in the end? Not sure anyone has a concrete answer at this point in time.