June 18 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Monday
refused to revive an antitrust case brought against the National Collegiate Athletic Association by two former student athletes
who lost their scholarships after suffering injuries.
Two former college football players had sued the NCAA in
2010, claiming that they were wrongly denied multiyear
scholarships that would have covered the cost of their
bachelor's degrees despite their injuries. The suit argued that
NCAA rules that cap the length and number of scholarships per
team hurt competition in the market for elite athletes.
But the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rejected the antitrust claims, upholding a district
court's decision to dismiss the case.
The Indiana district court had deferred to the NCAA, giving
the organization wide latitude to implement rules that prevent
college sports from becoming too professional. The scholarship
caps fell under the association's broad discretion, the lower
But the 7th Circuit disagreed with the lower court's logic,
refusing to assume that the scholarship rules were valid. Still,
the appeals court rejected the claims, finding that the market
for bachelor's degrees did not qualify for antitrust protection.
Federal antitrust law only applies to commercial transactions,
and students can't simply buy a bachelor's degree, the court
"As many unhappy undergraduates can attest, payment of
tuition does not ensure the receipt of a degree," Judge Joel
Flaum wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.
The students could have argued that the NCAA rules limit
competition between schools in the market for athletic labor,
but they failed to make that allegation in their complaint, the
Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the ruling
opens up the opportunity to file a new lawsuit that focuses on
the student-athlete labor market instead of the market for
bachelor's degrees. "We know what the 7th Circuit wants, and we
think we can easily do that," he said.
Gregory Curtner, a lawyer for the NCAA, was not immediately
available for comment.
The case is Agnew v. NCAA, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th
Circuit, No. 11-3066.
For Agnew et al: Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol
For the NCAA: Gregory Curtner of Schiff Hardin.
(Reporting By Terry Baynes)
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