INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the NCAA's ticket-purchasing lottery for the men's Final Four does not violate state law because buyers received no prize other than the tickets they pay for.
Four fans filed the suit on behalf "themselves and all others similarly situated," contending that the way tickets were doled out for the 2009 national semifinals and championship game constituted an illegal lottery under Indiana law. The NCAA is based in Indianapolis.
The state's high court ruled 5-0 in favor of the NCAA.
"The NCAA randomly allocated championship sporting event tickets to applicants who had offered to purchase tickets by submitting the face value of the tickets along with a nonrefundable handling fee," Justice Frank Sullivan wrote in the decision released late Thursday. "The face-value amount [but not the handling fee] was refunded to applicants whose offers were not accepted."
The NCAA has used the same system for years to determine which fans get tickets to the organization's most visible championship event, in which ticket demand far exceeds what's available.
In addition to submitting the face value for the tickets, potential buyers were also required to pay the nonrefundable handling fee of $6 per ticket.
But the court determined that because the ticket winners were selected randomly and that only the handling fee was given back to those who did not get tickets, the system did not meet Indiana's definition of an illegal lottery.
"Contrary to the plaintiffs argument, the fact that the fee is nonrefundable means that both groups receive the same amount after the blind draw," Sullivan wrote. "Those applicants whose offers to purchase tickets are accepted receive tickets for $150 per ticket, whereas those applicants whose offers are rejected receive $150 in cash per ticket."
A similar case is currently pending in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The NCAA said it hoped the Indiana decision would lead to the dismissal of the other case.
"We have long maintained that our fans have access to NCAA championship tickets in a manner that is fair and legal, and with this opinion, we believe the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals should dismiss this case," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said in a statement.