Judge approves $208 million settlement in NCAA scholarship lawsuit
The NCAA recently released its tax return. Here's a look at how the non-profit spent some of its money last year.
A federal judge in California on Friday orally granted final approval to a $208.7 million settlement that will compensate tens of thousands of college athletes who received traditional sports scholarships rather than a relatively new version that covers the full cost of attending school, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys told USA TODAY Sports.
The deal wraps up the damages portion of a suit that, along with another case, is still seeking to upend the NCAA’s new compensation limits altogether.
Speaking after a hearing that U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken held in Oakland, attorney Steve Berman said about 43,000 current and former athletes will get checks from the settlement, and they will do so without having to file a claim form. Although 11 major conferences are co-defendants, the NCAA has said all of the money in the settlement pool will come from the association’s financial reserves.
Athletes covered by the settlement who played their sport for four years will receive an average of $6,000, Berman said. He added that he expects the payments to go out in February.
“I’m thrilled with how this came out, and we’ve saved the best for the next trial,” Berman said, referring to the quests for an injunction against the compensation limits that currently is going through bids from the plaintiffs and the NCAA for a summary judgment ruling by Wilken.
More realistically, those efforts come down to the NCAA trying to get the cases dismissed and the plaintiffs trying to move the cases to trial. “One hundred percent we will get there,” Berman said.
The settlement approved Friday, at its simplest level, will apply to scholarship athletes in Division I men’s basketball, Division I women’s basketball or the Football Bowl Subdivision whose award was limited by NCAA rules to basically tuition, room, board, books and fees. Those athletes will be eligible for money if they were on scholarship during the 2009-10 school year — or if they were on scholarship at any time between then and Aug. 1, 2015, when an NCAA rules change let Division I schools begin giving athletes in any sport a scholarship that covers the full cost of attendance.
However, under certain circumstances, settlement money also will be available to scholarship athletes in the three covered sports even if their school, after the rules change, chose not to provide a scholarship covering the full cost of attendance. These athletes would be eligible for settlement money if their school has provided, is providing, or by June 1, 2017 indicated an intent to start providing during the 2017-18 school year any money toward the difference between the value of a traditional athletic scholarship and the full cost of attendance.
The amounts of payments to the athletes will be based on the number of years they were on scholarship and on the difference between the value of the scholarship they received and the cost of attendance at their school at the time.
Athletes who have remaining NCAA eligibility when they receive a check will be able to accept the money without any impact on their eligibility.
Berman said that Wilken’s action on the settlement Friday also included approval of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ request for $41.7 million in attorneys’ fees and $3.2 million in expenses – allocations that will come from the settlement fund.
The plaintiffs also were seeking $20,000 awards to the four lead plaintiffs in the case — former West Virginia football players Shawne Alston and Nick Kindler, former California women’s basketball player Afure Jemerigbe and former Memphis men’s basketball player D.J. Stephens.