The NCAA and college sports' major conferences announced Friday a preliminary settlement of $208.7 million with plaintiffs who received athletic scholarships before cost-of-attendance stipends were allowed. If approved, the average class member who played his or her sport for four years would receive approximately $6,763.
Filed in 2014 by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston and later consolidated with other cases, the lawsuit claimed the NCAA and conferences violated antitrust law by capping the value of an athletic scholarship at less than the actual cost of attending college. The NCAA and conferences have since changed their rule to allow cost-of-attendance stipends.
The settlement must still be approved by a federal judge. If approved, it would be the second-largest settlement in NCAA history. The Jason White case involving cost of attendance in 2008 resulted in a $230 million settlement.
Documents filed Friday night said, if the settlement is approved, athletes who are eligible will not have to file a claim form. Checks will simply be mailed to them.
"This is a watershed settlement -- recovering nearly all of the damages in the case," said attorney Steve Berman, who represented the class of athletes. "We're incredibly pleased with this settlement that brings student-athletes the payment and recognition they deserve."
The NCAA said Friday that the settlement will be funded entirely from NCAA reserves, meaning no conference or school will be required to contribute. If approved, the settlement means the NCAA will have paid approximately than $304 million in settlements for major cases since 2014. Those include class-action lawsuits involving the use of players' names, images and likenesses in video games, how the NCAA has handled concussions, and now cost of attendance.
The NCAA may also have to pay $42 million in legal fees and costs for the Ed O'Bannon case that found the NCAA violated antitrust law. The NCAA is appealing the ruling for the legal costs.
In the latest settlement, proposed class members include Division I men's and women's basketball and FBS football players from the 2009-10 academic year through the 2016-17 academic year who did not receive cost of attendance as part of their scholarship. The NCAA said class members will be eligible to receive a distribution if they attended schools that have been or will provide cost of attendance aid by the 2017-18 academic year.
"The agreement maintains cost of attendance as an appropriate dividing line between collegiate and professional sports," the NCAA said in a statement. "In fact, the NCAA and conferences only settled this case because the terms are consistent with Division I financial aid rules, which allow athletics-based aid up to the full cost of obtaining a college education. 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 proposed settlement doesn't impact the related Martin Jenkins lawsuit against the NCAA and major conferences. The Jenkins suit, brought by attorney Jeffrey Kessler, is challenging the NCAA's current cost-of-attendance limits that athletes can receive.
The NCAA said it will "continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play."