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Junior College Players Sue NCAA for|Right to Transfer to 4-Year Schools

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Junior college football players say in a federal class action that the NCAA and California colleges unconstitutionally restrict their ability to transfer to, play ball for, and get financial aid from four-year schools.

The seven named plaintiffs claim the NCAA, the University of California, Cal State and other four-year California schools violate the 14th Amendment by enforcing a bylaw that prevents junior college students from getting financial aid from a Division I four-year school, extends the amount of time they must spend as full-time students at a two-year college before they may receive financial aid, and prevents them from getting an education or playing at a Division I school.

The class claims that "student-athletes attending a two-year college who wish to transfer to a four-year college to participate in Division I Intercollegiate Athletics, eligibility for practice, athletically related financial aid, and play is determined based on whether the student was a 'qualifier' or 'nonqualifier' at the time the student-athlete graduated from high school."

A nonqualifier is a student who did not graduate from high school, or did not achieve the minimum grade-point average or SAT score required for a qualifier.

Before Aug. 1, 2009, a nonqualifier enrolling full time in a two-year college was eligible for financial aid, practice and competition if he or she graduated from the college, satisfactorily completed "a minimum of 48-semester of 72-quarter hours of transferable degree credit acceptable toward any baccalaureate degree program," had a minimum GPA of 2.0, and attended the college for at least three semesters or four quarters, according to the complaint.

The bylaw was amended by the Southeastern Conference on July 20, 2007 and enacted after Aug. 1, 2009, "to require successful completion prior to transfer to the four-year school of six semester or eight quarter hours of transferable English credit and three semester or four quarter hours of transferable math credit," according to the complaint.

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) claimed that the additional requirements would "help ensure that students who were nonqualifiers have the academic tools for success."

But the class claims that the "statements by the SEC were not based on the SEC's consideration of any studies or other analysis suggesting that the additional requirements were necessary, appropriate, or likely to have any effect other than reducing the number of 'non-qualifier' student-athletes who are allowed to receive financial aid from or compete at Division I institutions."

The class claims that the NCAA rules impose no such requirements "on any other class of student-athletes, either as a condition of transferring from another institution or of maintaining eligibility for financial aid and participating in Division I sports."

Lead plaintiff Reginald Davis, a full-time student at City College of San Francisco, says he was recruited by a number of Division I schools, but is not eligible for financial aid though he scored higher than 1,300 on his combined SAT in high school and maintained a 3.35 GPA at CCSF.

The bylaw "arbitrarily singles out plaintiffs and other junior college student-athletes for disparate treatment in the granting of athletic scholarships, and unfairly denies or unconscionably burdens their ability to obtain an education and compete in college athletics at the Division I level," the class claims.

The class claims the NCAA and its codefendants violate the students' constitutional rights by dictating "when and whether they may transfer to a four-year school."

Many student-athletes rely on athletic-based financial aid to get a college education, including "a disproportionate number ... [who] are from communities of color or who grew up in an at-risk environment," the complaint states. The class adds that "attending a junior college is their only option for continuing their education after high school and their last meaningful chance for success."

The class seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction.

They are represented by Stephen Walters with Allen, Matkins, Leck, Gamble, Mallory and Natsis of San Francisco.

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