Ninth Circuit Affirms Bench Trial Win in NCAA Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation

May 18, 2020 – The Ninth Circuit has affirmed the district court’s order entering judgment in part for student athletes following a bench trial before Northern District of California Judge Claudia Wilken.  The Ninth Circuit’s ruling states that the district court properly held that NCAA limits on education-related benefits were unreasonable restraints of trade under antitrust law and that enjoining those limits was warranted.

Importantly, the appellate court upheld an injunction that prohibits the NCAA from enforcing any rules that fix or limit compensation provided to college-athletes by schools or conferences in consideration for their athletic services other than cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses. Under the ruling, the NCAA is “permanently restrained and enjoined from agreeing to fix or limit compensation or benefits related to education” that conferences may make available.

The decision clears the way for individual Division I athletic conferences to independently set the rules for education-related compensation or benefits that their member institutions may provide to college-athletes, free from NCAA rules that the court found violate the antitrust laws.

The case is In re NCAA Athletic Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation, No. 19-15566, D.C. No. 4:14-md-02541. Pritzker Levine serves as Additional Class Counsel in the case, and as counsel for Justine Hartman and Afure Jemerigbe, two former University of California at Berkeley women’s basketball players who served as class representatives in the case.

In late 2017, Judge Wilken also granted final approval of a $228 million settlement on behalf tens of thousands of NCAA Division 1 college football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball athletes impacted by a prior NCAA cap on grant-in-aid scholarships. 

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