National tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford of Minnesota (88) celebrates with...

National tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford of Minnesota (88) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the American team during the first half of the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in Mobile, Ala. Credit: AP/Butch Dill

The NCAA, which represents some 1,100 schools and more than 500,000 athletes, is no stranger to lawsuits. It has been in court off and on since the early 1980s defending the amateur athlete model at the heart of college athletics.

But it is now facing some of the biggest legal challenges in its history, spurred by a 2021 Supreme Court ruling in which justices ruled 9-0 that the NCAA cannot limit education-related benefits that colleges can offer their athletes. In a blistering concurring opinion in the Alston case, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested the organization may be violating antitrust law.

THE HOUSE CASE

House vs. the NCAA is a class-action lawsuit in the Northern District of California before Judge Claudia Wilken, whose previous rulings in NCAA cases paved the way for college athletes to profit from their fame and for schools to direct more money into their hands.

Legal experts say an NCAA loss in this case could upend college athletics as we know it. The lawsuit, brought by Arizona State swimmer Grant House in 2020, could potentially cost the NCAA and major conferences more than $4 billion in damages and lead to athlete revenue sharing of those multibillion-dollar television deals for big-time college football and March Madness basketball.

ARE ATHLETES EMPLOYEES?

Two separate issues in front of the National Labor Relations Board — a complaint against USC and the Pac-12 and a unionization effort by the men's basketball team at Dartmouth — along with a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania filed by former Villanova football player Trey Johnson could lead to college athletes being granted employee status. Johnson and others are seeking hourly wages similar to those earned in work-study programs.

Penn State's Nick Kern Jr. (3) puts up a shot...

Penn State's Nick Kern Jr. (3) puts up a shot over Indiana's Mackenzie Mgbako (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in Bloomington, Ind. Credit: AP/Darron Cummings

The NCAA and its member schools have insisted they do not consider athletes employees who can collectively bargain for pay and benefits.

ATHLETE COMPENSATION

The attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia recently filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Tennessee that challenges the NCAA’s NIL rules after it was revealed the University of Tennessee was among schools facing potential infractions penalties. A judge Feb. 23 granted a preliminary injunction against the NIL rules and said they likely violate antitrust law.

Another antitrust case in California, whose plaintiffs include Duke football player Dewayne Carter, TCU basketball player Sedona Prince and Stanford soccer player Nya Harrison, seeks to bar the NCAA from enforcing any rules that prohibit athlete compensation.

“The House case is already seeking a broadcast sharing with the student-athletes with respect to the value of their NIL,” said Jeffrey Kessler, a plaintiffs’ attorney. “This case would also allow student-athletes, if we’re successful, to get broadcast revenues for their performance.”

A similar lawsuit seeking to lift NCAA rules on compensation from schools and conferences was filed in federal court by former Colorado football Alex Fontenot in November 2023.

ATHLETE TRANSFERS

Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia challenged NCAA rules on athletes who want to change schools, saying the one-year delay in the eligibility of certain athletes who transfer violates antitrust law.

ALSTON FALLOUT

Hubbard vs. the NCAA is yet another antitrust case, seeking damages for athletes who were denied education-related stipends that were the result of the Alston case. The plaintiffs include former Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and former Auburn track athlete Keira McCarrell, and the lawsuit seeks triple damages for all current and former Division I athletes as far back as 2018.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME