The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) [official website] and 11 conferences agreed Friday to a $208.7 million settlement [settlement agreement, PDF] in a class action suit brought by former college athletes alleging their scholarships were illegally capped. The lawsuit [materials] specifically contends the NCAA and various conferences capped athletic scholarships at an amount lower than actual cost of attendance, in violation of antitrust law. In January 2015, five of the largest conferences passed NCAA legislation allowing them to provide their student athletes with actual stipends covering the “cost of attendance”—tuition, housing, books, and other fees. Assuming the settlement is approved by a federal judge, each member of the class-action suit will receive $6,000, provided entirely from a fund created by the NCAA; the conferences will incur no cost. Following the announcement, the NCAA said in its statement [text] that providing these students with only cost of attendance, as opposed to providing them with a salary, is the “appropriate dividing line between collegiate and professional sports.” The second half of the class action suit is to provide these college athletes with salaries and is still in play following this most recent settlement.
A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] in September 2015 that the NCAA did violate antitrust laws by limiting student compensation, but also rejected a proposal to pay student-athletes up to $5,000 in deferred salary. In August 2015 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) [official website] declined to assert jurisdiction [JURIST report] over whether Northwestern University [official website] football players can form a union, overturning its 2014 decision [opinion, PDF], which recognized the players as university employees. The contested decision was made by the Chicago office for the NLRB one month prior, ruling that football players at Northwestern University qualified as employees [JURIST report] and therefore had the right to unionize. Had the players been allowed to unionize, their player union would have been the first in the history of the NCAA and pre-NCAA college athletics.