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AG Raoul, others file antitrust lawsuit against NCAA

Friday, Dec 8, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Crain’s

The NCAA is still forcing some athletes sit out a year following multiple transfers — and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul won’t stand for it.

Raoul and attorneys general in six other states filed a federal antitrust lawsuit on Thursday, challenging the NCAA’s transfer rules as “an illegal restraint on college athletes’ ability to market their labor and control their education.” […]

Six weeks ago, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a letter to the NCAA expressing concerns over the eligibility of second-time transfer Aziz Bandaogo, a 7-foot center for the University of Cincinnati basketball team whose appeal for a waiver was denied on Nov. 10.

Yost wrote that the decision was not only wrong “as a matter of common sense and decency, it is likely illegal” and raises antitrust concerns as an illegal restraint of trade.

* Thursday press release…

Attorney General Kwame Raoul today filed a federal antitrust lawsuit challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) transfer eligibility rule as an illegal restraint on college athletes’ ability to market their labor and control their education.

The NCAA rule requires college athletes who transfer among Division I schools to wait one year before competing in games, unless the NCAA waives the rule for a particular athlete. The NCAA began automatically exempting first-time transfers from the regulation in 2021 but has continued to enforce the rule for subsequent transfers and deny waivers for no legitimate reason.

Raoul and a bipartisan coalition of six attorneys general filed their lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to keep the NCAA from enforcing the rule.

“The Transfer Eligibility Rule unfairly restricts collegiate athletes and is not implemented in a consistent and straightforward way that is easy for athletes and their families to understand,” Raoul said. “I filed this lawsuit to bring fairness to this flawed system and ensure the needs of collegiate athletes and their families are prioritized and respected.”

Since its founding in 1906, the NCAA has expanded its rulebook beyond field contests to regulate off-the-field competition among its member institutions and manage the burgeoning business of collegiate sports. Some regulations are essential for the administration of college sports, the coalition’s lawsuit acknowledges. However, Raoul and the attorneys general argue, certain rules lacking a clear procompetitive benefit may run afoul of the nation’s antitrust laws, which are rooted in the belief that market forces yield the best outcomes.

In justifying the one-year waiting period for second-time transfers, the NCAA cites the promotion of academic well-being and the preservation of athletic amateurism. Raoul and the coalition call the connection between the rule and these goals “pretextual”; note that these purported goals can be accomplished through less-restrictive means; and argue that the harm it does to athletes, universities, and fans far exceeds any supposed benefits.

According to Raoul and the coalition, the one-year waiting period constitutes 20% of the total time allotted by NCAA regulations for the completion of a college athlete’s full eligibility – and, as such, could prove devastating for athletes seeking to optimize their career and welfare by transferring to schools that better suit them.

The NCAA often describes the college athlete experience as transformative, with competition playing a key role. By preventing students from competing, however, it hinders the full realization of this experience. Students deprived of the opportunity to compete in their chosen sports are denied the benefits that competition offers in preparing them for life, as acknowledged by the NCAA, and often suffer financial harm.

The lawsuit is here.

Thoughts?

       

15 Comments
  1. - Ron - In Texas - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:45 am:

    the NCAA rules for decades have been great for the schools and crappy for the players.

    I often think we are seeing a swing the other way based on momentum from other wins.

    At some point we have to have rules that acknowledge the universities making money from these student athletes (or a small % of them) and give them some compensation. On the other we also have to have some rules for conduct, mgmt, students, moving, etc. Eligibility rules exist, and rules around this should be simple to understand.

    Eligibility, drug tests, PED tests, etc. They can set rules and at some point we will have to find a balance between student athletes and the rules to play IN AN EDUCATION SETTING, NOT A PRO SETTING.


  2. - OneMan - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:49 am:

    Between the portal and NIL, it seems that the NCAA has worn out its usefulness when it comes to the major sports with the big schools.
    They might as well say, here is a division where you can go nuts, transfer every year, the school can pay you, much looser academic requirements, etc. We will provide you with competitive rules and officials, and you can help subsidize the same for smaller schools or schools that don’t want to or cannot make that financial commitment. So much of what they do now seems arbitrary. Just open it up at this point. We might as well create associations for big-time football and one for big-time basketball


  3. - The Dude Abides - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:50 am:

    Amateurism within the NCAA is a joke, and has been for a long time. IMO, the NCAA needs to be torn down and a new organization built from its’ ashes.


  4. - H-W - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    What a mess. The diversity of intellectual talents among athletes, their variance in commitments toward education and degree completion, etc., prevent me from suggesting students athletes become employees of universities. Some are here to learn and become leaders in their future work and future communities. Others seem to be gaming the system by enrolling, not attending, and then dropping and switching classes so as to carry full-time status. I am now seeing a few student athletes who were not admitted elsewhere (and lets be real - WIU is not an athletics power house), come here with the explicit intention of transferring. Academics for some is not a primary concern.

    It will be interesting over the next few years to track the academic progress of students athletes. Historically, they have had higher GPAs that the student body as a whole. If we were to start keeping track of students dropping courses and seeking full semester withdrawal (which will show up in their 4- and 6- year graduations rates), we may well find that student athletes (a) have higher GPAs, and (b) are less likely to graduate.

    What a mess this business of extending high school dreams through college has become.

    And again, most of my student athletes are very committed to education.


  5. - Flyin'Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:58 am:

    The NCAA are the three stooges version of organized crime.

    Now that the thinly veiled facade of “student” athlete has finally been removed, we see just how inept and crooked that outfit has been for decades.


  6. - Kippax Blue - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:34 am:

    Ironically the NCAA’s death penalty charge was “lack of institutional control”. That it should receive its own death penalty via “abundance of unnecessary control “ is fitting.


  7. - Homebody - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:37 am:

    I am wildly opposed to the NCAA in its current incarnation. It just exists to maximize revenue off the backs of kids, and fights tooth and nail to ever share that revenue with the kids who are getting concussions, breaking limbs, and generally putting their bodies through the wringer, particularly in top level men’s sports.

    No matter what the legal issue is, as soon as I see the NCAA is a party to the dispute, I know with confidence which side is probably the “good guys” in the fight, without even knowing what the dispute is over.


  8. - Joe Bidenopolous - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:09 pm:

    Death to the NCAA

    Just an awful organization run solely for the enrichment of others at the expense of student athletes. Long time for it to be disbanded

    To the question - I understand the desire to at least somewhat limit transfers (record numbers this year on day 1 - again), but when your coaches, administrators and others can up and leave whenever they so desire, I don’t see why it should be different for the athletes.


  9. - JS Mill - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:56 pm:

    =Death to the NCAA

    Just an awful organization run solely for the enrichment of others at the expense of student athletes. Long time for it to be disbanded+

    Agreed.

    On a smaller scale I say the same thing about the IHSA.


  10. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:57 pm:

    I’m all for empowering the student athletes and think the transfer portal has been a big step forward. Heaven forbid the coaches — often among the highest paid people at their universities — have to work hard at keeping their players. That said, it obviously needs some tweaks. If the NCAA lets you into the portal, it should allow you to then play. That’s on them. Generally support the shorter window for transfers. And if the portal is going to exist, it needs to be equitable for all schools involved. You can’t green light every transfer to a massive money generating Power 5 and then tell the displaced kids trying to play at a mid-major that they’ve gotta sit out a year. But that’s a problem with the NCAA that transcends the portal and is a major black mark on the organization’s reputation. I’m also of the belief that the NCAA largely exists to make the bad decisions that individual schools and conferences don’t want to get blamed for, which is why it has continued to exist despite its many, many shortcomings and mistakes.


  11. - H-W - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:00 pm:

    Ending or killing the NCAA will not work. If we have a mess now, deregulating college sports will not create a better product. In the absence of increasing employment slots at the professional level, it is safe to say the vast majority of student athletes will only be teased in to de-emphasizing their education and future potentials as citizens. Fewer will graduate. If education is a commodity (it is not), then the goal must remain certification for professional life outside sports. Anything less abused high school graduates for the gratification of entertainment.


  12. - Flapdoodle - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:12 pm:

    Some random thoughts unlikely ever to actually become actions . . . specifically aimed at Div 1 schools, possibly eventually applicable to Divs 2 & 3.

    Make all athletics departments independent entities responsible for their own budgets and operations — all relationships with university by contract with no financial support from university to athletics department — athletic departments responsible for own financial survival

    Universities retain title to all physical and intellectual property, including playing/practicing facilities, logos, team names, etc. — Athletic departments pay rent and licensing fees to universities

    Athletic departments negotiate schedules etc. independently but must also ensure facility availability with universities — the athletic departments are responsible for hiring event and seasonal staff according to their schedules

    Coaches and other staff are not university employees and do not hold academic appointments

    Athletes must be admitted to university and enrolled full-time fall and spring, meet university academic standards — all academic advising conducted through university

    Athletes may negotiate and sign deals with athletics departments — salaries, tuition, whatever, but this is all on the athletic departments’ tabs — athletes may transfer at will provided they are accepted at the relevant universities

    I’m certain there’s some things I’m missing, but basically, let’s cut the charades and get on with it


  13. - Original Rambler - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:43 pm:

    Agree with H-W. Deregulation would be a mess and the death of college athletics (which I prefer in pretty much all sports). There needs to be some regulating body. The NCAA has its deficiencies no doubt but then it needs to be replaced or drastically reworked, not eliminated.

    I’m not in favor of athletes transferring at will. Mid-year transfers that are immediately eligible would be terrible.


  14. - College Fan - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:48 pm:

    This is all fine, but with NIL becoming more pay for play these “student” athletes are becoming more like employees. This along with other other bills or suggestions regarding grievances should be pushed into the same labor laws which states, and federal governments already hold. Otherwise, they stay within the University policies of grievances and so forth.


  15. - Westsider - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:18 pm:

    Is this the beginning of the end of Title IX? Say goodbye to gymnastics, volleyball and golf. Gymnastics might survive.


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