Student-Athletes Inch Closer to $209M Scholarship Settlement

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge said Tuesday she is inclined to approve a $208.7 million settlement between student-athletes and the NCAA and major college sports conferences, but advised lawyers they need to do a better job of letting athletes know about the settlement.

The settlement will award roughly $6,700 to former Division I football and basketball players who received athletic scholarships at well below the cost of attending school.

The initial lawsuit was brought by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston, who sued the NCAA, the Pac 12, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference on antitrust violations in 2014. He said the NCAA and its power conferences colluded to cap the financial aid given to players at a level below what it costs them to attend college, and far below what the competitive market would pay.

Alston played running back for the Mountaineers from 2009-2012, and claimed he had to borrow more than $5,000 to cover the difference between his scholarship and what it cost to attend school.

In 2015, the NCAA changed its rules to allow schools to offer full cost of attendance scholarships.

Alston’s lawsuit was later consolidated with others and in December 2015, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken certified three classes comprising Division I football players, Division I men’s basketball players and Division I women’s basketball players.

The NCAA announced the settlement last month. Under the agreement, each student-athlete – about 40,000 of them – will get around $6,763 for four years of play in his or her sport if they played from March 5, 2010, to the present.

“It seems to me that the settlement is generally a good one,” Wilken said at a motion for preliminary approval hearing Tuesday. “But there is just one problem.”

Wilken said the current class notice doesn’t give students who may not be on the list a way to find out if they’re eligible or, if they are qualified for a payout, a way to dispute the amount they are receiving.

“How do they find out if they’re on the list? Should they just wait around for a check in the mail?” Wilken asked.

Scott Cooper, who represents the PAC 12 Conference, said the attorneys had set up a reserve fund to cover anyone who had been left out.

“We had anticipated that the process would be one in which we would initially send checks out and there would be a second round in which we would pick up anybody who didn’t receive either the amounts they expected or claimed they were entitled to money that hadn’t been sent. So that was the purpose of the reserve,” he said.

Wilken also said class members should be sent a breakdown of how their awards were calculated so they could dispute the amounts if necessary.

Class attorney Steve Berman said that shouldn’t be hard.

Wilken said she would not grant preliminary approval until the changes to the class notice are made.

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