Joseph Agnew Sues the NCAA

It is being reported that former Rice Football player, Joseph Agnew, through the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is suing the NCAA regarding its prohibition on multi-year 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.


There has been a lot of argument on this site regarding the renewal of athletic scholarships.  Some feel as though the coaches have every right to pull a scholarship and not renew solely on the grounds of poor performance on the field--most of those people are also in favor of oversigning.  Others, meanwhile, perfer that the student-athlete get a 4 year scholarship agreement and as long as the student-athlete meets certain, clearly explained criteria, he is able to remain on the scholarship for the duration.

Many have argued that athletic scholarships should be handled like academic scholarships, but there are several flaws in that argument.

1. Academic scholarships typical spell out the requirements in plain English and the recipient knows exactly what he/she has to do in order to continue to receive financial aid.  These requirements are typically the same for all persons receiving the same scholarship, and typically the requirements are based on maintaining a certain baseline GPA, course-load, etc.  Athletic scholarships on the other hand, specifically the renewal of these scholarships, are very subjective.  Furthermore, we have seen that some athletic scholarships have not been renewed because of the limitation on the number that can be given out and the coaches desire to bring in someone he thinks is more talented.

2.   The person determining (typically the head coach) who gets a scholarship or who gets renewed has a tremendous amount riding on the decision and vested interest in the renewal process.  In comparison, there is no one issuing academic scholarships with their multi-million dollar career hanging in the balance.  Coaches have a vested interest in the decision in the renewal process, something that doesn't exist on the academic side. 

Regardless, Agnew's lawyers are claiming that the NCAA is violating anti-trust laws by limiting the number of scholarships, which in turn they claim drives up the cost of a 4 year education for student-athletes. 

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association alleging the NCAA has conspired with colleges and universities to impose artificial limits on sports scholarships, actions the suit claims violate federal antitrust laws.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a student-athlete who lost his scholarship after a series of injuries and a coaching change, alleges the NCAA and its member institutions forbid member schools from offering multi-year scholarships and illegally limit the number of scholarships in large part to maintain the profitability of the institutions’ sports programs, a violation of the Sherman Act’s antitrust laws.

The NCAA, whose member institutions number nearly every major college or university in the country, sets limits on the number of scholarships those institutions can grant, and prohibits schools from granting multi-year scholarships. The suit claims these limitations drive up the cost of a four-year education for student-athletes.

The prohibition on multi-year scholarships leaves student-athletes who lose their scholarships through injury or coaching fiat with two difficult options: paying tuition out of pocket or finding another college or university that will give them a scholarship, or abandon their education, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone who, while enrolled at an NCAA member institution, received an athletics-based scholarship for at least one year and had their scholarship reduced or not renewed, forcing them to pay tuition at a college, university or other institution of higher learning. If you have information you believe is important to the case, please contact Hagens Berman at 206-623-7292 or by e-mail at ncaa_antitrust@hbsslaw.com.


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