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Former athletes sue NCAA over finances
The antitrust suit aims to overturn rules that limit scholarship money.
LOS ANGELES -- Three former college athletes sued to lift the NCAA's cap on financial aid and allow schools to pay for such items as laundry, health insurance and travel.
The antitrust suit was filed Friday in federal court. It seeks to overturn National Collegiate Athletic Association rules limiting college athletic scholarships to covering tuition, books, housing and meals.
The suit was filed on behalf of former football players Jason White of Stanford and Brian Polak of UCLA and former University of San Francisco basketball player Jovan Harris.
The complaint contends that the rules are an unlawful restraint of trade because major college football and basketball games constitute "a big, lucrative and profitable business" that generates billions of dollars from television and radio contracts, licensing and other agreements.
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 suit contends.
They also cause hardship to athletes by failing to cover the "full cost of attendance," the suit claimed.
By the NCAA's own estimate, athletes on full scholarships must pay an average of $2,500 a year in out-of-pocket expenses, the suit said.
"We're surprised by this lawsuit," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said.
NCAA guidelines allow students on full or partial scholarships to work part-time and to receive additional aid based on need or academic merit, he said.
"When we take all of that into consideration, we believe these claims don't have any merit," Christianson said in a phone interview from NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
The lawsuit cited a 2003 letter to the Denver Post by NCAA President Myles Brand that said he endorsed the idea of funding the full cost of attendance and estimating it would add $2,000 to $3,000 a year to each student scholarship.
However, Brand told The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday that whatever his own views, the NCAA must protect the rights of its schools to set scholarship limits.
"It is a membership issue that must be voted on," he said.
The suit seeks class-action status so that it would apply to thousands of current and former Division I-A men's football and basketball players and to basketball players in the Big East, Atlantic 10, West Coast and Conference USA that do not field Division I-A football teams.
If the suit is successful, federal equal rights statutes likely would require similar treatment for major women's college sports.