OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge certified three proposed classes of NCAA student-athletes challenging the association’s rules capping the amount of compensation and benefits players can earn while enrolled in college.
The players claim the NCAA and its conferences violate federal antitrust law by conspiring to impose the cap on the “grant-in-aid” that a school may provide to a student-athlete. Without the cap, the players claim, schools would compete in recruitment by offering more generous compensation packages.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken certified a class of Division I football players, a class of Division I men’s basketball players and Division I women’s basketball players.
“There is nothing to be gained by denying class certification only for class members to file a new lawsuit to be included in this litigation,” Wilken wrote in her ruling.
She rejected the NCAA’s contention that the injunction the players seek “would create a completely unrestricted open market in which schools would compete to pay higher and higher amounts to a select few student-athletes without any requirements to provide a minimum number of full grants-in-aid.”
“It is speculative, not inevitable, that defendants would change other NCAA rules or that the court would order such an unrestrained market,” she said.
“In speculating about intra-class conflicts, defendants fail to recognize their own role in determining how compensation amounts would be set even if this court were to enjoin the current grant-in-aid cap.”
Wilken also struck down the NCAA’s theory that eliminating the cap would create an “economics of superstars,” rejecting a NCAA expert’s prediction that schools would pay some student-athletes on the basis of their lower marginal revenue product.
She said that the theory depends on “the assumption that schools could not afford to spend more money compensating all student-athletes rather than cutting payments to some,” which she said was unsupported.
The NCAA’s lead counsel declined to comment. Jeffrey Kessler, who represented the players, said his clients were “extremely pleased” with Wilken’s ruling.
“We look forward to bringing these cases to trial,” Kessler said in an email. “It is one more step on the road to fair treatment for the Division 1 basketball and football players who generate enormous revenues for their schools.”
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