NCAA’s Latest Legal Nightmare May Be Most Important

by Zelle LLP

No doubt all eyes of the sports world are on the O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association trial, which is currently taking place in Oakland, California.[1] SB Nation called the trial “the biggest trial in the history of college sports” and Sports Illustrated implied that it could be the “most important trial in sports history.” However, as important as O’Bannon is to the landscape of college sports, there is another case on the horizon that has the potential to dwarf the importance and implications of O’Bannon.

A group of cases were recently transferred to Claudia Wilken, chief judge for the Northern District of California (the same judge overseeing O’Bannon). The collective litigation is now known as In re: NCAA Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation (“GIA cases”). Those cases all represent an antitrust attack on the NCAA’s rules regarding scholarship amounts.

One of those cases brings a particularly broad attack on the NCAA’s GIA rules — Floyd v. NCAA.[2] The case was filed in the District of Minnesota on April 25, 2014, on behalf of several current and former NCAA football players and men’s and women’s basketball players. Floyd is different in several noteworthy respects from the other GIA cases, but it is most significantly different in that:

1. It includes more plaintiffs and classes of players than the other GIA cases (in fact, it has more plaintiffs than all of the other damages class cases combined);

2. It is the only case that includes a female plaintiff and female basketball class;

3. It is the only damages class case that includes men’s basketball plaintiffs and a men’s basketball class;

4. It includes more defendants than most other cases — naming 11 conferences and the NCAA as defendants; and

5. It alleges both that: (1) the NCAA and certain member conferences have conspired to suppress the amount of scholarship money to certain grant-in-aid levels — leaving it up to the students to scrape up the additional $3,000 to $5,000 to make up for the shortfall between the GIA scholarship and the cost of attendance; and (2) that the NCAA and certain member conferences have engaged in anti-competitive conduct by collusively capping the scholarship amounts so as to eliminate a free market for player services.

Why Do These Athletes Need Legal Assistance?

A common question that people have is why there is a need to increase the amount of GIA given to these students. The prevailing thinking among some is that a “full ride” should be enough. However, in actuality these athletes do not receive a “full ride.” A GIA scholarship is on average $3,000 to $5,000 less than the actual cost to attend school. If you are an athlete who comes from a family with the financial means to make up the shortfall, then this may not be a significant issue. However, if you are one of a number of athletes who comes from a poor family that cannot help him make up this shortfall, then one is left in a situation where one goes to bed hungry at night, donates plasma for food, lives on government assistance while in college, etc.

Additionally, the argument against paying players more than they currently receive is no longer justified. The chief arguments — outside of the increasingly discredited amateurism/love of the game argument articulated by some — are: (1) athletes receive full rides; (2) athletes receive an education as compensation; and (3) there is not enough money to pay athletes.

With regard to argument 1 — as mentioned above, athletes do not receive a full ride; athletes receive a GIA scholarship which is $3,000 to $5,000 less than the actual cost to attend school. Athletes still have to pay for things like health insurance, transportation, certain books, utilities, geographic cost of living differentials, etc. Additionally, in certain cases, such basic necessities such as food are also not fully reimbursed. Recently, two-time NCAA National Basketball Champion senior guard, Shabazz Napier, of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Champions University of Connecticut Huskies, stated to reporters just days before winning the NCAA Championship that:

We’re definitely blessed to get scholarships to our universities, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t cover everything. I don’t think student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but ... there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.

In an email to The Huffington Post, a University of Connecticut spokesman said all of the school’s scholarship athletes, including Napier, receive the maximum meal plan allowed under NCAA rules.

The problem is, the “maximum meal plan” is not enough, and lack of food forces student athletes to come up with the money to bridge the gap between what the NCAA allows and what it actually takes to fully feed the student athletes.

With regard to argument 2, athletes receive classes, not an education. According to ESPN, only 47 percent of men’s basketball players and 58 percent of FBS football players graduate within four years. If an athlete’s value is measured by his education, then this means that every year, several thousand athletes leave colleges receiving no compensation for having sacrificed their bodies.

With regard to argument 3, the money flowing into college sports continues to grow at astronomical rates. Coaches’ salaries for football and basketball programs continue to increase, as do salaries for athletic directors and commissioners. The compensation for a football coaching staff in large conferences in many instances is more than the scholarship amounts of the entire team. In 40 out of 50 states, the highest paid public employee is a football or basketball coach.

In 2011, one University of Texas athletic director made $360,000 — she was only the fourth-highest paid athletic director in her state and only the second-highest paid athletic director on her campus (the other athletic director on her campus made just above $700,000). More alarming, she was the 18th highest paid employee on her campus with the head football coach being the highest with an annual salary above $5 million. Consequently, the question is not whether there is enough money — there is plenty of it; the question is, who should receive the money — the athletes who sacrifice their bodies, contribute directly to bringing in revenue for the school, and add to the economic value of the school or strictly the coaches and administration?

This year, on the heels of winning the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, the head basketball coach at UConn recently renegotiated his contract for $7.5 million over five years. However, as mentioned above, a few months ago the star player on the team, who was a pivotal reason that the coach received the new contract, recalled nights that he went hungry because the NCAA and its conferences limited his scholarship to a GIA amount insufficient to cover the cost of his meals. Not only is there illegal antitrust activity, there is just something about this that is fundamentally unfair and morally wrong, and should be changed by this new round of litigation.

Disclaimer: Zelle Hofmann is counsel for plaintiffs in O’Bannon v. NCAA and Floyd v. NCAA (a/k/a In re: NCAA Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation).

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

[1] The O’Bannon trial began on June 9, 2014, and concluded on June 27 with a decision expected within 90 days.

[2] Floyd v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, No. 0:14-cv-01290 (D. Minn.)

Competition Law360 - July 11, 2014


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Zelle LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Zelle  LLP

Zelle LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.