Antitrust lawsuit against NCAA targets transfer rules, scholarship limits


The transfer policies enforced by the NCAA have always been open for criticism. Now they are one fo the subjects of a new antitrust lawsuit filed against the NCAA this week. A lawsuit filed against the NCAA claims the governing body’s ability to restrict transferring options is patently unlawful.

The lawsuit has been filed by a law firm representing a former Weber State cornerback, Devin Pugh. Pugh claims he was promised a four-year scholarship at Weber State, but the scholarship was pulled following the retirement of head coach Ron McBride in 2011. The legal team representing Pugh claim he was unable to secure a transfer waiver and as a result could no longer stay in school.

The lawsuit also targets the scholarship cap limit placed on programs, which is quite an interesting development. The cap on scholarships is in part a result of Title IX rules regulating the number of scholarships that can be offered to male and female student-athletes, which is why teams with 120 scholarship players is not allowed. FBS programs are capped at 85 scholarships, while FCS programs may allow 63 scholarships per football program. Division 2 schools can award 36 scholarships, while no scholarships are distributed in Division 3.

This lawsuit may not make much ground changing the number of scholarships a football program can award, because Title IX would likely squash that, but the ability a player has to transfer from one program to another without losing a year of eligibility could be another story.

NCAA revenue jumps closer to $1 billion


Every penny counts, and the NCAA made a lot of them in 2014. In financial numbers released Wednesday, the NCAA showed a revenue of $989 million in 2014. With $908 million in expenses, the NCAA netted a surplus of about $80.5 million.

Compared to the previous fiscal year for the NCAA, the net surplus is about $20 million higher in 2014. As you might suspect, the 2014 surplus is the largest in NCAA history. So where did all of that money come from?

Approximately $753.5 million in revenue came through various television and marketing rights fees. An additional $114.8 millions came from championships and NIT tournaments. It should be noted the College Football Playoff and bowl games are not included under NCAA revenues as the NCAA is not associated with the bowl system or the College Football Playoff beyond sanctioning them as official postseason games and record keeping.

Of the $908.5 million in expenses, $547 million was distributed to Division 1 schools. A total of $34.7 million went to Division 2 distributions, championship expenses and other programs. Division 3 championship expenses and distributions amounted to $28.7 million. The NCAA also set aside $158 million for legal expenses, an astronomical number.

The details regarding large payouts to be made from losing legal battles is also outlined. A $70 million payout from a concussion lawsuit is undergoing negotiations with insurance providers. The settlement amount has not been 100 percent finalized, so there is still time before the NCAA has to commit to the funding for the concussion lawsuit. The NCAA says a “combination of insurance proceeds and settlements with third parties” to settle the $20 million owed as a result of the Sam Keller video game likeness lawsuit.

One notable lawsuit the NCAA has not yet put into a calculator is the impending amount due from the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. The NCAA is appealing a previous verdict so there is more to the fight before having to worry about the expected loss that could be rather significant.

These numbers come out as the NCAA is about to hold its biggest annual moneymaker, the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Last year’s Final Four was held in Arlington, Texas in AT&T Stadium. This year’s game will be played in Indianapolis, with a smaller venue and fewer seats to fill, and tickets to be sold.

“Great big venue and lots of people attending,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said, per USA Today. “It will be hard to achieve that same result in a somewhat smaller venue this year.”

Just imagine if the NCAA had taken control of the college football postseason years or decades ago. They would be seeing some monster profits from that as well.

Ed O’Bannon case gets tied up in court due to legal fees


No one expected the NCAA to go out with a whimper after U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of a group of plaintiffs led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, which finally granted student-athletes their likeness rights.

Two days after the ruling, the NCAA released a statement that it would appeal the decision.

The next obstacle for the two sides is how much money will be spent on legal fees. The irony isn’t lost on anyone.

The NCAA filed a request Friday to reduce the plaintiffs’ lawyers fees, according to’s Jon Solomon. The plaintiffs filed papers in October asked for $52 million to cover accrued fees. Obviously, the NCAA is looking to pay a considerably smaller amount.

“The NCAA wants the attorney fees be reduced by at least $36,864,238.59 and the requested costs by at least $4,916,282.68,” Solomon reported. “The NCAA claims the O’Bannon lawyers ‘impermissibly syndicated the case for its own financial gain with an unwieldy network of at least 34 firms. Many of them did very little work and added very little of substance, but padded the lodestar by billing thousands of hours of useless time.’”

Opening arguments for the actual appeal will be heard March 7, while a hearing to determine the fees will held April 1.

Seahawks Michael Bennett: ‘NCAA is one of the biggest scams’


A pair of Seattle Seahawks didn’t pull any punches when they were asked about the plight of student-athletes and what they believe is the NCAA’s exploitation of young men and women.

Defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman were asked about their college days during Thursday’s Super Bowl media day, and their replies couldn’t have been more biting.

“I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America,” Bennett told’s Terry Blount. “These kids put so much on the line. They [the NCAA] say, ‘We give you a free degree.’ That’s like me owning a restaurant and saying, ‘I’ll give you a free burger.’ It makes me so mad and irate. Universities need to do more for the student-[athletes].”

Sherman’s speech revolved around the daily habits of a college athlete.

“I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to take advantage of the free education they’re given,” Sherman said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say you’re not focused on school and not taking advantage of the opportunity you’re given.

“I would love for a regular student, for just one semester, to have a student-athlete schedule during the season and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes for 2 to 6 o’clock on any given day.

“Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when you get out [of practice and meetings] at 7:30 or so and have a test the next day and you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study and get the same work done.”

Plenty of “regular students” put in the same amount of time — if not more — than a typical student-athlete.

Furthermore, student debt is at all-time high. But, go on, Mr. Sherman.

“I tell you from experience that one time I had negative 40 bucks in my account,” Sherman added. “It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal.

“People say you get room and board and they pay for your education. But to [the school officials’] knowledge, you’re there to play football. Those are the things coaches tell you every day. Luckily I was blessed to go to Stanford, a school primarily focused on academics. But as [former Stanford coach] Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were still there to play football.”

There is no denying that college football is in a transitory stage. Last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case irrevocably changed what the meaning of “student-athlete” can actually be. The NCAA also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy that will allow those schools to better service the needs of their student-athletes.

Bennett wasn’t finished ripping the system, though.

“I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players,” Bennett said. “Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment.”

However, the former Texas A&M Aggie provided a solution that would ease his concerns.

“I think the NCAA should come up with a plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring into the schools. My school, Texas A&M, I think makes $50 million just on jersey sales. So I would say pay $60,000 [to student-athletes] for every year you stay in college. Keep that in a 401(k). After you graduate, hold that money until you are a certain age and then you get the money.”

Some day this might happen. It may be closer to happening than it isn’t. Until then, scholarship athletes still receive an education without paying or paying very little to gain such an invaluable asset.

NCAA starts appeal against ruling in Ed O’Bannon case


Three months ago, a landmark ruling came down from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken that granted college athletes their likeness rights. It stemmed from a lawsuit from former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who sued the governing body over the illegal use of his likeness in video games, jersey sales, etc.

The rule was thought to be the first step for amateur athletes to get paid. However, the NCAA quickly appealed the decision.

The NCAA officially filed its appeal Friday, according to USA TODAY‘s Steve Berkowitz. The intentions of college football’s governing body were made clear.

“As many courts have upheld, the NCAA and its members should be allowed to govern college athletics, and protecting that experience remains important to the nearly a half a million young men and women who compete at NCAA schools each year,” the NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, said in a statement. “Attempts by the plaintiffs and the district court to untether college athletics from the academic experience cut to the core of the student-athlete experience. We look forward to defending the college model on appeal, and in the meantime will continue to improve the student-athlete experience on the field and in the classroom.”

The appeal also stated that Wilken “improperly … took on the role of superintendent of collegiate sports” and each athlete playing either college football or basketball would cost an institution “roughly $30,000 each over four years.”

With some of the details now finally out in the public, the process is expected to play itself rather quickly. The NCAA already petitioned to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to have the appeal fully heard by April or May so schools can be prepared for possible changes to the system in 2016 based on the current ruling.