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Rock v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 29, 2015

JOHN ROCK, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,



Presently pending is Plaintiff John Rock's Motion to Disqualify the assigned District Judge. [Filing No. 122.] Mr. Rock filed this action against Defendant National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") in July 2012. [Filing No. 1.] He now asks that I disqualify myself as the presiding judge because I joined Butler University's Board of Trustees in June 2013. [Filing No. 122; Filing No. 123.] Mr. Rock claims that this has resulted in a conflict requiring disqualification pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 455(a), (b)(1), and (b)(4) because Butler University ("Butler") is a Division I football program with the NCAA. [Filing No. 123.] The NCAA opposes Mr. Rock's request, [Filing No. 134], and the parties have now fully briefed the motion, [Filing No. 135].



To put Mr. Rock's request and my ruling in context, the following background is relevant. In 2011, I presided as the District Judge on Agnew v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, which was an antitrust action brought by the same counsel who now represent Mr. Rock. Agnew v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n , Cause No. 1:11-cv-293-JMS-MJD. Ultimately, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed my decision to dismiss Plaintiff Joseph Agnew's claims with prejudice because he had failed to plead a legally cognizable market to support his antitrust claim. Agnew v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 683 F.3d 328 (7th Cir. 2012). It also affirmed my decision to deny Mr. Agnew another chance to amend his complaint. Id. at 347-48.

Mr. Rock filed this antitrust putative class action against the NCAA on July 25, 2012. [Filing No. 1.] He filed a substantially similar Amended Complaint before the NCAA answered, [Filing No. 20], and the NCAA moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint, [Filing No. 21]. I granted the NCAA's motion to dismiss, in relevant part, after concluding that Mr. Rock, like Mr. Agnew, had failed to allege a legally cognizable relevant market. [Filing No. 38 at 11-16.] On March 1, 2013, I dismissed Mr. Rock's claims without prejudice, but gave him an opportunity to move to amend his complaint if he could show good cause for doing so. [Filing No. 38 at 23.]

On March 28, 2013, Mr. Rock moved to amend his complaint, [Filing No. 39], which the NCAA opposed, [Filing No. 42]. On May 24, 2013, I granted Mr. Rock's motion and the Second Amended Complaint became the operative complaint in this matter. [Filing No. 46.] I specifically noted that I "[did] not find Mr. Rock's proposed amendment to be futile" and that "justice requires giving Mr. Rock a final chance to amend his complaint." [Filing No. 45.] Mr. Rock's Second Amended Complaint specifically challenged "(i) the NCAA's prohibition on multi-year Division I football scholarships, and (ii) its unlawful caps on the number of football Division I football scholarships that can be awarded by Division I member institutions." [Filing No. 46 at 12.] It proposed the following putative class:

Any individual who, while enrolled in an NCAA member institution, (i) received a scholarship, grant or tuition discount ("Grant in Aid" or GIA") based on athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance from an NCAA member institution for at least one year for the purpose of playing Division I football, (ii) had their GIA reduced nor not renewed and (iii) subsequently paid tuition at a college, university or other institution of higher education.

[Filing No. 46 at 22.]

On June 10, 2013, the NCAA moved to dismiss Mr. Rock's Second Amended Complaint. [Filing No. 47.] The parties briefed that motion, and on August 16, 2013, I denied the NCAA's Motion to Dismiss. [Filing No. 58.] I held that, for the first time in this litigation, the complaint at issue "pleads the rough contours of a relevant market that is plausible on its face and in which anticompetitive effects of the challenged regulations could be felt." [Filing No. 58 at 1.] Because Mr. Rock alleged sufficient factual allegations to support an antitrust claim that is plausible on its face, I denied the NCAA's motion and ordered the parties to proceed with the litigation. [Filing No. 58.]

The parties jointly submitted a proposed Case Management Plan ("CMP") on August 22, 2013, in which Mr. Rock characterized his claims as follows:

Plaintiff challenges the National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA") rules which prohibited multi-year athletic scholarships for Division I football players and the continuing cap on the number of football scholarships a Division I football team may award. By unlawfully agreeing not to offer multiyear Division I football scholarships, the NCAA and its member institutions ensured that student-athletes who were injured or who simply did not meet the school's expectations could be cut from a team and their scholarships terminated. By unlawfully agreeing to limit the number of Division I football scholarships that a member institution can grant in any given year, the NCAA and its member institutions have ensured that student-athletes in the class receive tens of millions less for their labor for member institutions than they would receive - and the member institutions would pay - in a competitive market.

[Filing No. 60 at 3.] The parties' proposed CMP was approved by the magistrate judge. [Filing No. 60 at 4.]

In the fifteen months since denying the NCAA's Motion to Dismiss Mr. Rock's Second Amended Complaint, the parties have proceeded with discovery and I have not made any dispositive rulings. On November 23, 2014, Mr. Rock filed a Motion For Class Certification. [Filing No. 104.] He filed his supporting memorandum the following day, [Filing No. 111], and also filed a Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended Complaint "solely for the purpose of conforming the class definition to the definitions set forth in [his] Motion For Class Certification, " [Filing No. 114]. On December 8, 2014, the NCAA filed a Response in Opposition to Mr. Rock's Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended Complaint, claiming that Mr. Rock's "new proposed classes are much broader and introduce factual questions not previously at issue in this case." [Filing No. 117 at 5.] The NCAA requested expedited consideration because until the amendment issue was resolved, it claimed to be "prejudiced in formulating its opposition and in providing its expert with guidance regarding the proposed class definition." [Filing No. 117 at 7.] Moreover, the deposition of Mr. Rock's expert was scheduled for December 17, 2014. [Filing No. 117 at 7.] To attempt to keep the pending deadlines and deposition on schedule, I gave Mr. Rock until Friday, December 12, 2014 - three business days - to file a reply supporting his motion to amend. [Filing No. 119.] Mr. Rock moved to vacate the shortened reply deadline, citing it as unnecessarily restrictive, and asking that he receive until Monday, December 15, 2014. [Filing No. 120] I denied this request because the "timing of plaintiff's motion to amend in the context of other activity in the litigation has necessitated an abbreviated reply deadline." [Filing No. 121.]

Two days later, on December 11, 2014, Mr. Rock filed the pending Motion to Disqualify. [Filing No. 122.] I asked the assigned Magistrate Judge to conduct a status conference with the parties to determine the effect of Mr. Rock's Motion to Disqualify, if any, on the other pending deadlines and scheduled discovery. [Filing No. 125.] The assigned Magistrate Judge conducted a status conference on ...

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