The deluge of litigation targeting the NCAA continued Wednesday when former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston accused the governing body of college sports and five major conferences of violating federal antitrust laws in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The 120-page lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the NCAA and five conferences also named as defendants -- the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC -- from abiding by the NCAA’s bylaws. The lawsuit alleges the NCAA and schools collude to cap the value of scholarships and wants college athletes awarded the difference between their scholarship and the cost of attendance.
“The NCAA thus arbitrarily restricts athletics financial aid to amounts that are less than the athlete would receive in a competitive market,” the lawsuit said.
In Alston’s four years at West Virginia, the lawsuit said, his scholarship covered “substantially less” than the actual cost of attendance each year. The exact gap wasn’t specified. But it resulted in Alston obtaining a $5,500 loan before his senior year in 2012-13 to cover costs the scholarship didn’t.
NCAA President Mark Emmert’s frequent comments supporting addressing the cost of attendance gap litter the complaint as evidence of the NCAA’s inability to address it.
“Rather, the NCAA’s athletics grant-in-aid cap is simply a cost containment mechanism that enables the NCAA and its member institutions to preserve more of the benefits of their lucrative enterprise for themselves,” the lawsuit said.
Alston is represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, no stranger to sparring with the NCAA. The firm is also involved in concussion litigation against the organization that’s in mediation and Ed O’Bannon’s long-running lawsuit that’s scheduled for trial in June.
Alston, who retired from football after the New Orleans Saints cut him in June 2013, sued Electronic Arts last fall over the use of college athletes’ likenesses in video games.
The Birmingham News first reported Wednesday’s lawsuit.
The complaint goes on to assert that if not for the NCAA cap, colleges would compete against each other and likely offer athletes scholarships in excess of the actual cost of attendance.
“We just received a copy of the complaint and are evaluating it as it relates to similar cases filed by the very same plaintiffs’ counsel,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in an emailed statement.
In a statement released by his attorneys, Alston said he believed the NCAA should stand for fairness and all involved should share in the economic success.
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