Antitrust problems not going away for NCAA, member institutions

Well-known labor law attorney Jeffrey Kessler filed an antitrust suit against the NCAA and the five “power conferences”–the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC–in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on Monday. The suit, filed on behalf of four college athletes, demands class-action injunctive relief from the NCAA’s current restrictions on the amounts of athletic scholarships. The four players are also seeking individual, monetary damages.


The complaint alleges that the NCAA and its member institutions have engaged in “cartel agreements” and “price-fixing” meant to exploit college athletes by “placing a ceiling on the compensation that may be paid to these athletes for their services.” The complaint goes on to allege that the NCAA’s scholarship model violates, in several enumerated capacities, Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.


The suit’s timing could not be worse for the NCAA, which announced the field for its annual Division I basketball tournament yesterday. The NCAA is currently in settlement talks over the highly-publicized O’Bannon litigation, challenging the legality of the use of college athletes’ names and likenesses by the NCAA and its member institutions. Monday’s suit also follows the filing of a similar suit less than two weeks ago by former West Virginia and current New Orleans Saints running back Shawne Alston on March 5th.


Speculation has begun to circulate that the Kessler-led suit may be the most damaging yet. Commenting to USA TODAY, Kessler stated that “the other fights are on secondary aspects. This is a frontal attack on the basic unfairness of the system.”