Golden Bear alum Bill Tyndall is one several plaintiffs named in a lawsuit filed by sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler. The lawsuit basically contends few things.
- Player compensation should not be capped by the value of an athletic scholarship.
- The NCAA acts as a cartel. They fix prices paid to athletes, who would receive offers beyond the fixed amount of tuition/housing/academic costs they currently accept from their scholarship
- No cap is legal in a free market and the NCAA needs to end the practice (via a judicial injunction)
- The suit does not ask for damages as a group.
- It does not make claims on specific revenues but states that athletes should be treated like regular students (who do not have to endure any sort of educational or financial caps). A student may receive a variable scholarship price dependent on his or her supposed market value.
SI: How significant is Jeffrey Kessler’s lawsuit in comparison to other legal challenges facing the NCAA, such as the Ed O’Bannon case?
Michael McCann: I think it’s a big deal because it involves current players who are essentially asking for the right to become free agents. Basically they’re asking for a world where college athletes are like college coaches: They can sign with any college that pays them the most money. That’s a very different model from the college sports that we all know. It’s a lawsuit that tries to drive a stake into the model of college sports that we’re all familiar with.
SI: Kessler’s lawsuit includes a handful of current student-athletes as well as former ones. Is that important for his case?
MM: It’s significant in that it builds a stronger case for an injunction. These players are currently impacted by these rules, as opposed to Alston and potentially others who come to his case, who are former players. So, in that regard, it’s a stronger argument because they are currently being harmed, allegedly, by these rules.
SI: It’s important to note Kessler’s antitrust suit is not calling for specified compensation for NCAA student-athletes, correct? His suit only calls for restrictions on compensation to be taken away.
MM: That’s exactly right. Kessler wants to eliminate caps on scholarships, not guarantee pay for players. So some players may end up with less. And also, this could lead to a system — and I think the NCAA would argue this — that is anti-competitive in its own right because some schools could afford to pay more, and therefore resources could be hoarded by some schools. It could make college sports prohibitively expensive for universities that don’t have the budgets of other schools.
The lawsuit should be very interesting to follow over the next few months. What are your thoughts on this situation?