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College Athletes Win In Class Certification Motion

By Michael DeRienzo, Esq. | Last updated on

Want to make some money while attending college? You can start your own business. You can also try to be a (paid) intern. Or, thanks to recent changes in the law, you can make money from being an athlete.

Old Rule: Flag on the Financial Play for Athletes

Just a few short years ago, if you were a college athlete and wanted to make money from your talents, you were risking both your ability to play and your personal liberty. It was just expected that you went to school full time, had hours of homework, and then sometimes risked your life to make yourself a better athlete. Then on game day, you go out there and do your job and make billions ($15.8 billion in 2019) for NCAA schools. If you thought you should be paid for your efforts, you were banned by the rules. And, even if you tried to work around the rules, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was there to put a stop to that nonsense thinking.

Athletes Challenge the Ruling on the Financial Field

Today, student-athletes are now able to make money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). While not a full-time job with pay, the NIL industry is already a billion-dollar industry that allows students to market themselves for profit.

So how did it go from a guaranteed prison sentence to being a teenage millionaire? In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in NCAA v. Alston that the NCAA must follow antitrust laws. This ruling meant that athletes could cash in from marketing their NIL without losing their amateur status.

Athletes Demand Cash Payment in Instant Replay of Their NILs

Following the new ruling, the NCAA amended its policy to match the decision. However, prior to that decision, the NCAA was already facing litigation that has now become a topic of great concern.

In 2020, two current NCAA Division I athletes filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the NCAA and the conferences of violating the Sherman Act.

More specifically, the athletes alleged that the NCAA and other entities profited from their NIL while simultaneously banning the athletes from doing the same.

The NCAA argued that the $1.3 billion sought in damages was speculative, and moved to stop the court from certifying the class. The court disagreed though, and sorted the classes in its decision into three separate classes:

  • Division I Men's Football and Basketball players;
  • Division I Women's Basketball players; and
  • Division I players from other sports.

There are some limitations to the classes (including the years they played, which school they played for, and whether they received scholarships). However, the class as a whole is still expected to consist of more than 185,000 individuals.

The trial is set for 2025. Until then, there may be some legal "Hail Marys" from the NCAA and the conferences to end this sooner. The plaintiff athletes can only hope that Boston College, a school in the Atlantic Court Conference and subject to the case, doesn't complete yet another miracle Hail Mary.

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