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2014 Minnesota Vikings: Sharrif Floyd Named Lead Plaintiff in Class Action Lawsuit Against NCAA

The NCAA found itself subject to another class action lawsuit, this time over grant-in-aid caps (which covers “only tuition, institutional fees, room and board and required course-related books” per the filed lawsuit, available via PDF). Sharrif Floyd is one of the lead plaintiffs named in the case, but aside from providing a written statement over twitter, has declined to comment on the case at the NFL Play60 event, but is willing to expand further later.

The written statement is as follows:

Student athletes need to be respected more. It’s hard for great coaches to do their job when their athletes are just looking for something as simple as an extra meal, a movie date with a friend and comfort that they are gonna be taken care of and not taken advantage of. Athletes shouldn’t be suspended for raising money, to better his life or for looking at a mentor as a father. This has nothing to do with the Gator Nation. I love my college and will always be a Gator.

Sorry for the torrent of legal news regarding the Vikings, but I suppose these things will happen from time to time. More below.



For any worried about what this means for Sharrif Floyd’s availability to the Vikings, worry not—it shouldn’t affect any of his workouts, practices, etc.

This lawsuit is unique in a few respects: it is the first such lawsuit whose plaintiffs include women and it is the first such lawsuit that includes the conferences, not just the NCAA, as defendants.

There are, naturally, a number of charges that Floyd and his fellow plaintiffs make, but the issues that may carry the most weight are:

  1. The fact that there is what amounts to oligarchical price-fixing regime over the maximum compensation an athlete can earn (tuition and expenses)
  2. That Grant-In-Aid (GIA) does not cover full college expenses by the NCAA’s own definition
  3. The rules that the NCAA enforces serve as a contract, and as such violate the Sherman Antitrust Act by unlawfully restraining trade (both because market rates would be higher than GIA and because labor movement is restricted)

The collusion charges are independent of the labor arguments that Kain Colter and the Northwestern football team are pursuing through the National Labor Relations Board, and do not require that athletes be recognized as “employees” in order to be successful (though a successful lawsuit may imply that, as they are plying their labor as trade if they are correct).

There are seven plaintiffs representing three subclasses (football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball) and three of them reside in Minnesota (the other two are University of Minnesota defensive back Kyle Theret and running back Duane Bennett) and getting Floyd on board with the other two may be a move to make sure the case is prosecuted in Minnesota, a strategy the NFLPA chose to pursue in their antitrust litigation.

As of right now, the lawsuit has been filed to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and the arguments for processing the claim there include the fact that three plaintiffs are located in the district, as well as the fact that the district has had revenues distributed through them (through Final Fours) and multiple contacts were made to parties throughout the district.

The PDF outlines a number of other arguments for why college athletes deserve higher compensation (including projected market, lack of viable alternatives—especially for football, the high level of competition, the relevant geographic market and more).

The lawsuit also details the history of anticompetitive conduct the NCAA has gone through, and an extensive discussion about the nature of “amateurism”. They also elucidate the argument about the difference between GIA and actual Cost of Attendance, which aside from being acknowledged tacitly by the NCAA have been found in studies to be between $2,300 and $5,400 a year.

I have discussed this issue extensively, and you can listen in on my podcasts here and the following podcast here. While I am wary of the ripple effect and unintended consequences of calling college athletes “employees,” I strongly believe that they deserve compensation above the GIA level.

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  1. He’s perfect for this case. Look up his college suspension and you’ll find he’s sort of a Blindside (Oher) case. The NCAA has been poorly managed, despite the relatively small number of examples they simply haven’t proven capable of judging hardship. (Another embarrassing one was the guard at Georgia whose doctor had infused him with a standard steroid treatment, and his rare medical predisposition didn’t flush the dosage.. He couldn’t get the chemical out of his system for years). All they have to do is offer extra pay in the form of $250-500 stipends and hire a few social workers to track the couple dozen cases and remove all benefits if a benefactor steps out of line (which is why it would only be a few dozen, must have a clean track record).

    1. Indeed. As I was looking through the document for something involving those lines, as you’re right he has a specific interesting grievance against the NCAA. But nothing I found in my quick scan could be construed as something connected to the NCAA’s ridiculous treatment of him.

      That said, it was just a cursory scan and his specific case could be used in some other manner.