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Pugh v. The National Collegiate Athletic Association

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

December 6, 2016

DEVIN PUGH on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON MOTION FOR FINAL JUDGMENT OR CERTIFICATION OF INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Devin Pugh's (“Pugh”) Motion for Final Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and Certification of Interlocutory Appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). (Filing No. 49.) On November 5, 2015, Pugh filed a two-count class action complaint alleging that Defendant National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. In particular, Count I is applicable to Pugh's claims regarding the NCAA's prohibition of multi-year scholarships and the NCAA's cap on athletic scholarships, and Count II is applicable to Pugh's claims regarding the NCAA's transfer rules. On September 27, 2016, the Court granted NCAA's Motion to Dismiss Count II of the Complaint. (Filing No. 48.) Pugh now seeks final judgment or, in the alternative, certification of interlocutory appeal on Count II in order to permit immediate appeal to the Seventh Circuit. (Filing No. 49.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Final Judgment and Certification of Interlocutory Appeal is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2010, Pugh accepted a Division I grant-in-aid to play football at Weber State University (“Weber”), a Division I FCS school. (Filing No. 1 at 25.) A full grant-in-aid is the amount of scholarship that sometimes is referred to as a full ride. It includes the cost of tuition, fees, room, board and required textbooks for student athletes. The period of an award cannot exceed one year and FCS schools may not award more than sixty-three full grants-in-aid. Id. at 8. Weber State's head coach, Ron McBride, pledged to Pugh that his grant-in-aid would be renewed annually so long as he did well academically and remained eligible for NCAA competition. Id. In December 2011, after Coach McBride retired, Weber State named a new head football coach, Jody Sears. Id. at 26. Coach Sears informed Pugh that Weber State would not renew his grant-in-aid and that he should consider transferring to another school.

         After sending highlight tapes to numerous schools, Pugh was offered full grants-in-aid at several Division I FBS and FCS schools. Id. at 27-28. However, all of the grants-in-aid were contingent upon his ability to play two more years of NCAA football. Id. Because NCAA's “year-in- residence” bylaw required Pugh to sit out of competition for a full season, he only had one year of competition left. Id. at 28. Pugh applied for a “hardship waiver, ” which would have allowed him to play immediately, however, NCAA denied the request. As a result, every grant-in-aid offer was rescinded. Id.

         In 2013, Pugh transferred to Colorado State University-Pueblo, a Division II school. Id. Because Pugh transferred from a Division I school to a Division II school, he was eligible for a one-time transfer exception and did not have to sit out for a year, giving him two seasons left to play NCAA football. Id. However, Pugh's new grant-in-aid award was less than at Weber State and covered only tuition, but not books, housing, or any other costs. Id. at 29. As a result, Pugh's school loans increased from approximately $3, 000.00 per year to $6, 000.00 per year. Id. Following a football injury and job offer, Pugh left school with nine credits remaining to graduate, which he intends to finish. Id. at 29.

         On November 5, 2015, Pugh filed a class action Complaint alleging anti-trust violations against NCAA. (Filing No. 1.) Count I of his Complaint asserts that NCAA bylaws violated the Sherman Act by prohibiting multi-year Division I football scholarships and capping the number of athletic scholarships that could be awarded by Division I member institutions. Count II of the Complaint alleges that Division I Bylaw 14.5.5.1 (the “year-in-residence bylaw”) violates the Sherman Act by requiring Division I student-athletes to forego a year of athletic eligibility when transferring to another Division I school, amounting to an unreasonable restraint on trade. The pertinent section of the bylaw states:

14.5.5.1. General Rule. A transfer student from a four-year institution shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition at a member institution until the student has fulfilled a residence requirement of one full academic year (two full semesters or three full quarters) at the certifying institution.

(Filing No. 34-2 at 34) (emphasis added).

         On January 15, 2016, NCAA filed a partial motion to dismiss, seeking only to dismiss Count II of the Complaint. On September 27, 2016, the Court granted NCAA's partial motion to dismiss, concluding that NCAA's eligibility bylaws are “presumptively procompetitive” and, therefore, do not violate the Sherman Act. (Filing No. 48.) Pugh now seeks final judgment or, in the alternative, certification of interlocutory appeal on Count II in order to permit immediate appeal to the Seventh Circuit. (Filing No. 49.)

         II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, federal appellate courts “have jurisdiction over all final decisions of the district courts of the United States, and orders resolving fewer than all the claims in a case are not ‘final' for purposes of an appeal.” General Ins. Co. v. Clark Mall Corp., 644 F.3d 375, 379 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted). However, Fed. Rule Civ. P. 54(b) provides the following exception,

When an action presents more than one claim for relief - whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim - or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). A Rule 54(b) order requires the district court to make two determinations: (1) that the order in question was truly a “final judgment”, and (2) that there is no just reason to delay the appeal of the claim that was ...


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