NCAA ordered to pay $46 million fees in athlete pay case

Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:31am EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A federal judge ordered the NCAA to pay nearly $46 million in attorneys' fees and costs to lawyers for student-athletes including former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon in their class-action antitrust lawsuit against the organization.

The decision late Monday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins came nearly a year after U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California said the NCAA violated antitrust law by barring athletes from sharing in revenue from the use of their names and images in broadcasts and video games.

In awarding the athletes' lawyers 90 percent of the $50.9 million they sought, Cousins rejected the NCAA insistence that any award not exceed $9.1 million, and its subsequent "middle ground" suggestion to cut the fee request in half.

"This win against a behemoth of an institution like the NCAA could significantly change American college sports," wrote Cousins, who works in San Jose. "Plaintiffs did not succeed on every claim. But the time spent on the unsuccessful claims contributed to the decisive success by laying the groundwork for the eventual trial victory."

The NCAA declined to comment.

Cousins' decision is the latest defeat for the NCAA in litigation over its refusal to pay major college soccer and men's basketball players.

Critics say the prohibition shortchanges athletes, and often keeps them from taking paid jobs while in school. O'Bannon, who won an NCAA championship in 1995, testified to spending 40 to 45 hours a week on basketball.

On March 17, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the NCAA's appeal of Wilken's August ruling, which also said some athletes may deserve up to $5,000 a year in deferred payments. The outcome could affect Cousins' decision.   Continued...