Amateurs. What are you gonna do?

In a classic late Friday afternoon news dump move, the NCAA announced it settled the Alston case.

Thousands of college athletes who received traditional sports scholarships rather than a new version that covers the full cost of attending school will be compensated for the difference under a $208.7 million settlement reached Friday night between the NCAA and plaintiffs in a presumptive class-action antitrust lawsuit against the association and 11 major conferences.

The deal, which must be approved by a federal judge, would be the second-largest legal settlement in the NCAA’s history. Similar litigation in a case led by Stanford football football player Jason White ended in 2008 with an agreement worth just under $230 million.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers sound pretty darn happy.  And why shouldn’t they be?

“We’re very pleased that we could get a 100% settlement for these kids,” Steve Berman, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s very unusual to get 100% in a settlement.”

The NCAA would have you believe it paid 100 cents on the dollar because it’s all about helping the kids.

“The agreement maintains cost of attendance as an appropriate dividing line between collegiate and professional sports,” the NCAA said in a statement. “In fact, the NCAA and conferences only settled this case because the terms are consistent with Division I financial aid rules, which allow athletics-based aid up to the full cost of obtaining a college education. Whenever possible and appropriate, the NCAA prefers to provide benefits to student-athletes rather than incur the ongoing cost of lawyers and legal processes.”

If only it were possible and appropriate a few years ago.

Of course that’s a load of crap.  The real reason was the NCAA stood to lose a lot more than 100% of the claimed damages.

While the settlement (if approved) will require the NCAA to pay $208.7 million, it will not require the NCAA to admit any wrongdoing. This is not surprising. A settlement is not an admission of guilt. It is a contract where the defendant and plaintiff agree on an arrangement that both find preferable to continuing the litigation. It is possible, if not likely, that NCAA attorneys were confident they would have ultimately prevailed in a trial against Alston and other players. But any such confidence would have come with a major risk—the risk of losing. Along those lines, we know it is worth at least $208.7 million for the NCAA to terminate this litigation, otherwise the NCAA would not have agreed to the terms of this settlement.

So what does the NCAA gain from a settlement that, if approved would require the NCAA to pay such a hefty fee? Perhaps most important, the NCAA eliminates the possibility of the “worst case” scenario occurring: losing the case, having to pay much more than $208.7 million and being forced to radically change its governing rules. The NCAA also cuts off any further obligations to share evidence or partake in depositions that might reveal damaging information about the NCAA and its officials.

The NCAA’s done a lot of agreeing recently in antitrust cases, more than $300 million’s worth in just the last three years alone.  And for all its brave talk that it will “continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play”, the more it settles these, the more the lawyers in the outstanding litigation — which includes Alston, by the way, as those plaintiffs are seeking an injunction that would nullify the current limits — smell blood.  Jeffrey Kessler is still out there and he’s not going away.


Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

12 responses to “Amateurs. What are you gonna do?

  1. AusDawg85

    Boy, the NCAA better hope there is some type of sporting news story this weekend that captures the headlines and pushes this to the back pages.

    And as much as I get the need for anti-trust litigation and class action lawsuits to corral corporate misdeeds, why does it still feel like only the plaintiffs lawyers win big? The American way…


  2. Linda

    That is Stinking Thinking


  3. Macallanlover

    Never understood why this went the path of “cost of attendance”, seemed like a mistake then, and still smells. It sanctioned cheating and cost much more than was needed. A full scholarship with room. board, tuition, books, and a set expense allowance (say $500 per month) with no variance would have gotten the job done. Then schools could have had partial scholarships, like they always had, for sports that are not revenue positive. Calling something a “full scholarship” when the athlete has no way/time to get spending money for gas, movies, dates, etc., contributed to much of the cheating. With no time to work a part time job, or get money from family, how can they live like other college students? May have to live differently but it is a stretch to call them recreational, and life style, expenses a “cost of attendance. They aren’t, it is the restriction of time to have the same choices other students have that needs to be compensated. And that doesn’t vary enough from school, or location, enough to prohibit a one size fits all stipend from working. If someone wants to have a penthouse loft condo over the free, on-campus room offered, that should not be on the athletic department.


    • rchris

      Do students have to pay income tax on a cost of attendance stipend, and would they have to pay taxes on a set expense allowance like you propose?


      • Macallanlover

        I don’t think so because it can be justified that a per diem at that level is needed to cover average costs in all regions of the country. The question is whether the IRS could require proof (receipts) that the money was spent on allowable items like they do for businesses. I don’t think they would require that and, is there really in any tax on $6K of annual income?


    • … a set expense allowance (say $500 per month) with no variance would have gotten the job done.

      Mac, I’m not sure you’re getting the point here. The NCAA can’t win antitrust cases when it artificially sets player compensation.


  4. Macallanlover

    Don’t see an expense stipend as compensation Senator, unless it is set as an arbitrary “cost of attendance”, over and above normal expenses. NCAA allowed a minimal expense allowance for dry cleaning/laundry when I was in college in the 60s and 70s.


  5. DawgByte

    All rise as Senator Bernie enters the room!

    Senator Sanders: “I applaud this court ruling in the name of social justice… I’m pretty sure racism and Donald Trump were at the heart of this case, so again join me and rejoicing this victory for the WORKERS!
    As many of you know, over the last decade Senator Blutarsky and I have been working relentlessly to abolish serfdom, corporate greed and get the government more involved in regulating sports. These evil institutions, backed by the totalitarian NCAA, are forcing these High School football players at gun point to accept scholarships, the value of which over 4+ years amounts to approximately $1M and this must end. Senator Blutarsky and I vehemently disagree with the traditional student athlete model and believe these are professional athletes that must be justly compensated for their image, because providing a television platform to demonstrate their skills to NFL scouts is just not enough. We also do not buy the argument that Pay For Play will negatively impact swimmers, wrestlers, gymnasts other athletes at colleges and universities. To prevent 88% of colleges and universities athletic programs from going under in a Pay for Play scheme, Senator Blutarsky and I have introduced new Congressional legislation to raise income taxes by 25%. Under our plan we will provide ‘FREE’ college to all Americans and pay college football players a yearly salary of $200K plus corporate endorsement deals, with annual base salary increases of 7% over the next 50 years.
    AmeriKans, please join Blutarsky and I by Rising-Up and joining our utopian cause!!! Senator Blutarsky for president 2020… this message was paid for by Black Lives Matter, a subsidiary of George Soros Anarchy Inc.”