The NCAA is heading to mediation with the plaintiffs of a landmark concussion lawsuit, CBSSports.com has learned.
Both sides in the lawsuit filed two years ago against the NCAA by former Eastern Illinois defensive back Adrian Arrington (and three others) have agreed to the mediation process on Nov. 1. The NCAA and a plaintiffs' attorney told CBSSports.com of the mediation independently. Both sides say the date is subject to change.
Citing court documents, the Birmingham News reported earlier this month both sides were scheduled for a November mediation.
Former federal judge Layn Phillips is expected to be the mediator presiding over the hearing. Phillips last month helped the NFL and NFLPA reach a settlement over a long-running head trauma dispute.
If the NCAA and plaintiffs agree, a final resolution and possible distribution of funds could take months.
"If we're able to settle the case in November and get this through [it] would change the game forever," plaintiffs attorney Joseph Siprut said.
The Arrington plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as long-term medical monitoring by the NCAA and stricter concussion guidelines. Since the lawsuit was filed in September 2011 the NCAA has hired a chief medical officer (Brian Hainline) whose main duty at the moment is addressing concussion/brain trauma issue. The NCAA also donated awarded a $400,000 grant to study concussions in March 2012.
Arrington's attorneys are still seeking class action certification for the lawsuit which would mean thousands of players could be affected by a settlement. The NCAA's case was harmed -- perhaps irreparably -- by damaging emails and information obtained by the plaintiffs that was revealed in that class-action filing. For example, less than 50 percent of NCAA schools said they required a player to see a physician post-concussion.
CBSSports.com reported in August that the NCAA was considering a settlement in the Arrington case. USA Today first reported the possibility. Phillips is skilled in "complex mediation cases," according to a source.
At the time a settlement became a possibility, NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said, "While the NCAA continues to believe these allegations are inappropriately made against the NCAA, we are willing to consider reasonable mediation options that address student-athlete health and safety concerns, which has always been our priority."
While mediation is no guarantee of a settlement, it may an indication the NCAA is attempting to limit its exposure to financial liability in several high-profile legal challenges. It faces multiple lawsuits in the Ed O'Bannon case, from Joe Paterno's family, from former USC assistant coach Todd McNair and Arrington.
Arrington, 27, is on welfare and suffers from seizures that he says were caused by repeated head trauma suffered playing for Eastern Illinois.