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7th Circuit to hear arguments in NCAA price-fixing lawsuit

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments Monday in a case brought by two former NCAA athletes whose scholarships were revoked after injuries. The litigants claim that they were wrongly denied multi-year scholarships that would have covered the cost of their bachelor’s degrees.

In the case of Joseph Agnew, et al. v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, No. 11-3066, a federal appellate panel will hear arguments in the case from the Southern District of Indiana following a removal from the Northern District of California. U.S. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled Sept. 1 in favor of the Indianapolis-headquartered NCAA, dismissing the challenges to two bylaws that dealt with a one-year scholarship limit for student-athletes and a cap on athletic-based discounts that a school can offer per sport each year.

The judge found she was bound by Banks v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, 977 F.2d 1081, 1087-88 (7th Cir. 1992), which examined that lawsuit under the “Rule of Reason” analysis. She declined to apply the “quick look” version of the rule as the plaintiffs argued, and found that the plaintiffs failed to plead a relevant product market. Magnus-Stinson wrote, “… the ‘market’ for bachelor’s degrees is implausible as a matter of law because people cannot simply purchase bachelor’s degrees at Division I colleges and universities.”

 After that ruling dismissed the suit with prejudice, plaintiffs Joseph Agnew and Patrick Courtney filed an appeal.

In appellate briefs filed with court, the plaintiff-appellants argue that the NCAA is trying to reach beyond the District court’s holding by contending not only the financial aid rules are valid, but all the NCAA rules involving student-athletes are presumptively pro-competitive.

“In essence, the NCAA claims an exemption from the antitrust laws for all but a small portion of its rules dealing with television broadcast or coaches’ salaries,” the brief states. “This is a dangerous perversion of the Supreme Court’s rulings….is unsupported by any precedent, and would result in giving the NCAA carte blanche to violate the antitrust laws regardless of the anticompetitive motivation or effect of its rules. The NCAA’s arguments on this appeal should be rejected.”

The NCAA didn’t file a brief prior to the arguments, which are scheduled for 9 a.m. Central Time. Each side has 15 minutes to make their arguments, and there is no timeline on when the appellate panel must make a decision.

 

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