Student-Athletes to Share $208M in Settlement With NCAA

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Student-athletes who challenged the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s rules on how much compensation they can earn while attending college will receive roughly $208 million in a settlement approved by a federal judge on Wednesday.

Former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins led a class of roughly 53,000 current and former Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players seeking an injunction to let the free market dictate how much college athletes are paid. They claimed the NCAA’s compensation cap unfairly bars them from earning money playing sports while the NCAA receives multibillion-dollar payments from TV networks and advertisers.

The NCAA sought dismissal, saying the claims are identical to those litigated in O’Bannon v. NCAA, in which the Ninth Circuit held in September 2015 that member schools need not compensate athletes above the cost of attendance.

While U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed, she nevertheless refused to dismiss the case last year, writing in an August 2016 ruling, “The Ninth Circuit’s decision in O’Bannon limits the types of relief plaintiffs may seek but it does not provide a basis upon which a judgment on the merits can be rendered. O’Bannon simply forecloses one type of relief plaintiffs previously sought: cash compensation untethered to educational expenses.”

Under the settlement, each player will receive approximately $6,000. Their attorneys will get 20 percent of the $208 million settlement in fees – about $41.7 million.

The agreement follows another major settlement between student-athletes and the NCAA. In November, Wilken approved a $208.7 million settlement in which a class of 43,000 current and former athletes led by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston will also see roughly $6,000.

Alston 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, saying 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.

Jenkins’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler with Winston & Strawn in New York did not respond to an email requesting comment on the ruling.

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