Monday, May 8, 2006

Football Walk-Ons Not a Class

Five men who played Division I-A football as walk-ons allege that the NCAA rule limiting schools to 85 football scholarships violates antitrust law -- and that, absent the rule, they would have received scholarships. They tried to have themselves designated as class representatives for a class of all I-A football walk-ons who practiced with their teams in the pre-season. Last week, Judge John Coughenour (W.D. Wash.) denied class certification. In Re NCAA I-A Walk-On Football Players Litigation, 2006 WL 1207915 (W.D. Wash. May 3, 2006), Westlaw.

Judge Coughenour walks the reader through the elements of class certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) -- numerosity (check), commonality (check), typicality (check), and adequate representation (oops). The thing is, if the antitrust violation is shown, it is quite another matter to show that all the walk-on players from each Division I-A school would have gotten scholarships. And once you think that only some of them would have, then the members of the purported class would have interests at odds with one another.

Class certification also fails under FRCP 23(b) because "individual issues clearly predominate as to the element of damages" and class action treatment is an inferior means of handling the case.

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Image: Northwestern University football game, 1905. Source: SDN-004541, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society, Library of Congress American Memory Project.

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