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College Athletes Win Historic Legal Victory in Ninth Circuit

Related Lawyers: Michael D. Hausfeld, Swathi Bojedla, Bruce J. Wecker, Hilary K. Scherrer, Michael P. Lehmann, Sathya S. Gosselin, Bonny E. Sweeney
Related Practice Areas: Antitrust / Competition

September 30, 2015 (Washington, DC) – In a 63-page opinion issued earlier today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Judge Claudia Wilken’s ruling, following a bench trial last summer, that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and its member schools “fix” the price that college athletes pay for their education in violation of the antitrust laws. 

Writing for the majority, Judge Jay Bybee concluded, “the NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules. In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism . . . .”  In reaching that decision, the Ninth Circuit roundly rejected the NCAA’s arguments that its prohibition on compensation (1) is “valid as a matter of law”; (2) does not regulate commercial activity; and (3) does not foreclose college athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their names, images, and likenesses. 

Although the appellate panel was divided on the question of whether the trial court erred in ordering the NCAA to permit up to $5,000 in deferred compensation above the full cost of attendance, all three judges agreed that the trial court correctly determined that the NCAA’s amateurism rules violate the antitrust laws—and that an appropriate remedy requires the NCAA to permit its schools to provide up to the full costs of attendance (often thousands of dollars more than any athletic scholarship). 

Hausfeld Chairman Michael Hausfeld welcomed the favorable decision: “The Ninth Circuit has affirmed that the NCAA and its member schools are a price-fixing cartel that has long violated the antitrust laws, as evidenced at trial. Judge Wilken’s injunction will produce significant competition among the member schools that will translate into real money for college athletes to put toward the rising educational expenses they face. Today is a good day for college athletes in all sports, whether men or women, and reform advocates everywhere.”

Hausfeld’s team of attorneys working on the case are: Michael Hausfeld, Michael Lehmann, Bonny Sweeney, Hilary Scherrer, Sathya Gosselin, Bruce Wecker and Swathi Bojedla.     

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Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Brussels, London, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure.

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