Study: NCAA Wins More Than 70% of Athlete Lawsuits

July 8, 2014

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is currently facing legal challenges from several directions: the former University of California basketball player Ed O'Bannon's class action regarding players' likenesses, the high-profile lawyer Jeffrey Kessler's lawsuit about athlete compensation, and concussion lawsuits from athletes in several sports.

Those challenging the NCAA have their work cut out for them in the long run, however, a new study from the University of Illinois argues.

When college athletes sue the NCAA, they often win the initial round of litigation, the study concluded, but the NCAA eventually wins more than 70 percent of the time on appeal.

"The first round of litigation is essentially a coin flip, but the win-probability for the student-athletes quickly plummets in subsequent rounds of appeals," said Michael LeRoy, a professor of labor and employment relations and the study's author.

The findings could also point to the future of a case the NCAA is not yet directly involved in, LeRoy said. Northwestern University is currently appealing a National Labor Relations Board regional director's ruling that football players there are university employees. The law supports Northwestern's and the NCAA's theoretical model of amateurism, LeRoy said. The NCAA filed an amicus brief last week supporting Northwestern.

"Even though schools profit off the sweat of college football players, a federal appeals court is unlikely to view this commercial reality as legal justification to alter the NCAA's amateurism model," LeRoy said.

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