NCAA to set aside $10 million in tentative settlement with ex-athletes
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA plans to ease restrictions on educational expenses for current student-athletes while setting aside $10 million to reimburse former athletes as part of a tentative class-action lawsuit settlement.
The agreement, which a judge must approve and both sides review before becoming final, stems from a federal antitrust lawsuit filed in February 2006 by two former football players and a former basketball player from California.
Initially, NCAA officials said the case had no merit. The proposed settlement includes the governing body's denial of wrongdoing, but the NCAA also acknowledged it sought a settlement to avoid additional expenses and distraction from litigation.
"It does provide greater flexibility for student-athletes who meet some of the qualifications for expenses that weren't otherwise covered," NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said Wednesday.
While athletes attending school through 2012-2013 will find fewer restrictions on determining reimbursement for educational expenses, resume preparation and career counseling, the 12,000 former student-athletes who joined the class-action suit would have access to a new $10 million fund for prior expenses. Those claims must be filed within three years.
In addition, the NCAA has agreed to let Division I schools provide year-round health insurance for athletes and accident insurance to cover the costs of injuries sustained on the playing field.
But it may take months to finalize, Williams said, and may take even longer for athletes to get their money.
"It's not just you're a member of the class and you get a check," he said of the $10 million fund. "You have to demonstrate you have reimbursable expenses."
Stephen Morrissey, the attorney for the former athletes, did not immediately return a message left with his office by The Associated Press.
The plaintiffs argued NCAA limits on scholarships, which cover tuition, books, housing and meals, are an unlawful restraint of trade because of the billions of dollars generated from TV, radio, licensing and other agreements through major college football and basketball.
They believe the limits "deny a legitimate share of the tremendous benefits of their enterprise to the student-athletes who make the big business of big-time college sports possible," the lawsuit contends.
Previously, NCAA president Myles Brand acknowledged financial aid limits do not cover the full cost of college attendance, and a recent study showed college athletes spend about $2,500 annually from their own pocket.
Student-athletes would also be able to recover some travel expenses, such as the cost incurred because of the death of a family member, Williams said. That money will come from an existing $218 million fund already established by the NCAA.
The NCAA has had mixed results in court, losing a costly high-profile suit involving restricted earnings of coaches and initially losing a case that set minimum test scores for incoming freshmen. An appeals court later reversed the ruling on Proposition 16.
More recently, the governing body has been prone to out-of-court settlements, such as when the National Invitation Tournament claimed the NCAA was trying to put its basketball tournaments out of business.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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