Court: Scholarship case can proceed

Updated: August 19, 2013, 6:28 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA has lost another court round, this time over scholarships.

U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson rejected the governing body's motion to dismiss a case brought by former college football player John Rock.

NCAA lawyers contended Rock's case should be thrown out because he could not show one-year scholarships or scholarship limits on football teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision created an anti-competitive effect.

In a 27-page ruling issued Friday by the Southern District of Indiana, Magnus-Stinson wrote that, by law, she was accepting Rock's arguments as truthful and could not find anything in the NCAA's arguments to prevent the case from going to trial. Magnus-Stinson did, however, acknowledge that the standard of proof would be exceedingly higher for Rock -- if the case actually is heard in a courtroom.

Rock claims that after playing three seasons of college football at Gardner-Webb, the new football coaching staff refused to renew his scholarship in July 2011. The team captain and starting quarterback said he then had to pay thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to earn a political science degree. The NCAA now allows schools to offer multiyear scholarships.

"Based on these allegations, which the Court must accept as true at this time, Mr. Rock has sufficiently alleged that the bylaws he challenges resulted in anticompetitive effects that injured his proposed market as a whole," Magnus-Stinson wrote. "Accordingly, the Court rejects the NCAA's argument to the contrary."

It's yet another legal problem for the NCAA, which is still contending with a handful of other cases around the country, including Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit in California and a concussion lawsuit in Chicago.

Rock contends that the scholarship limitations prevented him from receiving more scholarship offers. FBS teams are allowed to grant 85 scholarships, while FCS teams can have 63 scholarship players.

The NCAA believes Rock's contentions will not hold up in court.

"The NCAA is confident that there is no factual support for Rock's claims and that discovery will show that the NCAA's rules are, in fact, good for student-athletes and competition," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Rock's original filing was tossed out because it was considered too broad.

After refiling the case and narrowing the arguments, Magnus-Stinson determined those steps gave Rock's case enough legal standing to go forward even though the judge made it clear she wasn't endorsing his arguments.

"The Court emphasizes that these conclusions are not an endorsement that Mr. Rock's market as pled will withstand the higher burdens of proof that accompany summary judgment or trial, where his factual allegations will not be accepted as true without supporting evidence," the judge wrote.

"Instead, the Court concludes that Mr. Rock has alleged sufficient factual allegations that, when taken as true as the Court must do, plead the rough contours of a relevant market that is plausible on its face. Whether Mr. Rock can gather enough evidence to prove that the relevant market he pleads is correct is a question for another day."


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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