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New lawsuit claims collusion over cost-of attendance scholarships

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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The NCAA could soon be paying out the actual cost of attendance retroactively.

Lawyers for former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston, who played for the Mountaineers from 2009-2012, have filed a proposed class-action suit against the NCAA and the five power conferences -- SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC – alleging a violation of antitrust laws by agreeing to hand out scholarships that were less than the actual cost of attending school.

According to suit, Alston claims he had to take out a loan of $5,500 to cover expenses while he was at West Virginia.

According to al.com, Alston’s extra expenses fall within the range of out-of-pocket expenses most athletes face, which, according to a study, generally run from $1,000 to $6,904 per year depending on the school.

The suit seeks to reverse NCAA rules, which currently prohibit extra stipends for student-athletes as well as retroactively reimburse athletes who were forced to pay living expenses while at their respective schools.

According to the suit: “Under antitrust laws, a defendant's desire to save costs – and thereby increase profits at the expense of other participants in the market – is not a legitimate justification for the grant-in-aid cap or any other horizontal agreement to restrict price or output.”

The suit alleges collusion by the five power conferences and cites multiple instances where memeber of those conferences - and NCAA president Mark Emmert - have stated that they would implement a  proposed $2,000 cost-of-attendance stipend if it were not for smaller Division I schools that could not afford it.

Cost-of-attendance stipends have been discussed at great length, but never pursued because it would give a greater advantage to conferences that generate more income. The five major conferences have discussed breaking off from the rest of the FBS institutions so that they could autonomously provide extra benefits beyond typical items such as tuition, books, and room and board covered in scholarships.

The law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, which filed the suit, has been in settlement talks with the NCAA over concussions and represents former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller in a lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company over athletes' names, images and likenesses in relation to the Ed O’Bannon case.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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