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7th Circuit affirms tossing suit challenging NCAA 1-year rule

June 26, 2018

A proposed antitrust class action over the Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association’s rule requiring transferring students to sit out a year was rightly dismissed, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The decision in Peter Deppe v. NCAA, 17-2275, affirmed District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt’s dismissal of the suit on the pleadings in federal court in Indianapolis.

Plaintiff Peter Deppe chose to play Division I college football as a walk-on punter at Northern Illinois University, where he enrolled in June 2014. An NIU coach told him he would receive an athletic scholarship in January 2015, but the school later signed another punter. Because his chances of receiving a scholarship were reduced, Deppe began looking around for another school. The University of Iowa was interested if he could compete for the 2016-2017 season, but the NCAA deemed him ineligible under its year-in-residence rule.

Deppe sued the NCAA, proposing to certify a class of college athletes challenging the NCAA’s year-in-residence rule. Pratt granted NCAA’s motion to dismiss the case, and the 7th Circuit agreed Monday.

“The year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics and is therefore presumptively procompetitive under NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma, 468 U.S. 85 (1984), and Agnew v. NCAA, 683 F.3d 328 (7th Cir. 2012),” Judge Diane S. Sykes wrote for the panel.

Deppe also argued the NCAA enforces the rule for economic reasons rather than to preserve the amateur nature of college football, and that the rule “preserves the hegemony of the top ‘Power 5’ conferences — the most powerful group of schools in the NCAA.”

The panel likewise discarded those claims. “But the rule impedes transfers in both directions,” the panel concluded. “Without it, the ‘Power 5’ schools could poach rising stars from smaller schools, which would risk eroding the amateur character of the college game.”

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