Antitrust Enforcers Target Another NCCA Rule

Government suit: Limiting athletes from changing schools unreasonably restrains competition.

Under the current rules of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), college athletes who transfer from one university to another more than once are ineligible to play for a full season. According to a suit initiated by a group of states, the rule violates Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The enforcement authorities say the rule unreasonably restrains competition in the markets for athletic services in men’s and women’s Division I basketball and Football Bowl Subdivision football, as well as for athletic services in all other men’s and women’s Division I sports. By deterring transfers, the rule also limits players’ educational opportunities, the plaintiffs maintain (Ohio, et al. v. NCAA, No. 1:23-cv-00100-JPB, N.D. W.V., Clarksburg Div.).

Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia filed suit in the Northern District of West Virginia in December 2023. The court soon granted the states’ request for a temporary 14-day restraining order, agreeing that the NCAA is likely in violation of the Sherman Act. Following the order the NCAA agreed to suspend the rule for the entire season. Last month the DOJ, the states of Minnesota, Mississippi and Virginia, and the District of Columbia, joined the suit.

Students can transfer for a variety of reasons. Their current school may not offer the courses or major they wish to pursue. The sport or the coach may not be a fit. Chief federal antitrust law enforcer Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said college athletes should be able to “freely choose the institutions that best meet their academic, personal and professional development needs with out anticompetitive restrictions that limit their mobility by sacrificing a year of athletic competition.” He said the rule also limits the athletes’ bargaining power.

A four-day trial has been scheduled for June 2025.

Also see Cracking the College Sports “Cartel”: Good for Athletes, Competition, and the Games by Joy Sidhwa and Tim LaComb, with contributions from sports attorney Jeremy Evans.

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