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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
The NCAA has agreed to pay nearly $208.7 million to settle part of a class-action lawsuit filed by student athletes who claimed the amount of scholarship money they could receive was unfairly capped below the actual cost of attending college.
The settlement, which still must be approved by a judge, would affect Division I men's and women's basketball and Football Bowl Division student athletes from March 5, 2010 through the 2016-17 academic year who did not receive "grants-in-aid" equal to the cost of attendance, court records show. Cost of attendance is the federally determined amount it costs to go to college each year, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation and other expenses.
Former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston sued in 2014 in federal court, arguing the Indianapolis-based NCAA and Division I conferences "systematically colluded to disrupt the free market" and deprive student athletes of "the full economic benefits of their labor." Alston's lawsuit later was combined with several others.
In a statement, attorney Steve Berman said the $208,664,445 settlement will bring student athletes the payment and recognition they deserve. A college athlete who played his or her sport for four years would receive about $6,763, federal court records show.
"In this area of multimillion-dollar coaches' salaries and billion-dollar deals and endorsements, it's time for the NCAA to treat the athletes fairly who make this possible," said Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman in Seattle.
In a statement released Friday, the NCAA said its Board of Governors determined the settlement would be fully paid out of NCAA reserves. None of the 11 Division I conferences named in the lawsuit or any member schools would be required to contribute.
"Whenever possible and appropriate, the NCAA prefers to provide benefits to student-athletes rather than incur the ongoing cost of lawyers and legal processes," the NCAA said.
The settlement, if approved, would not affect the entirety of the lawsuit. The NCAA and conferences "will continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play," according to the statement.
"Plaintiffs' lawyers want to dismantle college sports, which has provided billions of dollars in scholarships and the opportunity for millions across 24 sports to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees," the NCAA said. "The Association and its members, not plaintiffs' lawyers or courts, are best positioned to shape the NCAA's rules and processes to better serve student-athletes."
The NCAA said the settlement is consistent with Division I financial aid rules, which allow athletics-based aid up to the full cost of obtaining a college education. Berman, however, noted that the NCAA did not amend its bylaws until after the lawsuit was filed.
"When the court approves the settlement we have reached, student-athletes will finally be getting their fair share of the billions the NCAA rakes in each year in profits from their talent," Berman, said. "This settlement is a major victory for student athletes nationwide."
A court hearing on the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. March 21 in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif.
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