Suit claims antitrust law violations

October 25, 2010

Suit claims antitrust law violations

The NCAA was sued in federal court Monday in a case that seeks to overturn the governing body's policy of putting one-year limits on athletic scholarships.

The suit was filed in California on behalf of former Rice football player Joseph Agnew. It claims that Agnew lost his scholarship after he underwent shoulder and ankle surgeries prior to his junior year in 2008. Rice changed coaching staffs after Agnew's freshman season, when he played in all 13 of the school's games. He appealed and had his scholarship reinstated for his junior year, but he did not play football.

Agnew's suit asks to represent other former players whose scholarships were not renewed.

The suit claims that the prohibition of multi-year scholarships, along with limits on the number of scholarships each school can give out, drives up the cost of an education for student athletes. It claims a violation of federal antitrust laws.

"The NCAA will tell you these limits are necessary to maintain a level playing field in college sports," said Steve Berman, one of Agnew's Seattle-based lawyers, in a release. "However, we believe the monopoly is designed to safeguard the school sports programs' profitability, which spawns multi-million dollar coaching contracts and rich revenue streams for the schools."

"The NCAA is reviewing the allegations," NCAA spokesman Bob Williams wrote in an e-mail to USA Today. "However, it should be noted that the award of athletic scholarships on a one-year, renewable basis is the more typical approach taken within higher education for talent-based and academic scholarships in general."

Since 1973, the NCAA has banned colleges from offering scholarships for longer than one academic year. Scholarships are often renewed annually, but schools can decide not to renew for just about any reason -- including athletic performance.

Information from ESPN investigative reporter Tom Farrey is included in this report.

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