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Deppe v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

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

March 6, 2017

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

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND TO STRIKE IRRELEVANT ALLEGATIONS OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Partial Dismissal and to Strike Irrelevant Allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint, filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1) by Defendant, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“the NCAA”). (Filing No. 26.) The NCAA moves to dismiss Count Two of Plaintiff Peter Deppe's (“Mr. Deppe”) Complaint, as well as Mr. Deppe's requests for injunctive relief. The NCAA also moves to strike irrelevant allegations contained within Mr. Deppe's Complaint under Rule 12(f). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part the NCAA's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but following the standard set forth for considering motions to dismiss, the Court accepts all factual allegations as true and construes the Complaint in the light most favorable to Mr. Deppe.

         Mr. Deppe was a football punter in high school. (Filing No. 1 at 4.) He sought to play football at the collegiate level, and was recruited by the following schools: Northern Illinois University (“NIU”) (preferred walk-on); Central Michigan University (preferred walk-on); Michigan State University (top two prospects for scholarship offer); Northwestern University (preferred walk-on); Iowa State University (top two prospects for scholarship offer); University of Toledo (offered scholarship); University of Minnesota (preferred walk-on). (Filing No. 1 at 5.) Mr. Deppe ultimately chose NIU and enrolled in June 2014 as a preferred walk-on. (Filing No. 1 at 5.) He chose to “red shirt” during his first year at NIU, meaning he chose to forego that year of athletic eligibility, which would then carry over to a later year. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) Mr. Deppe planned to take over as the starting punter the following year, when he would still have four years of athletic eligibility remaining. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) In August 2014, NIU's special teams coach told Mr. Deppe that he would begin receiving an athletic scholarship in January 2015. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) That coach, however, soon left to accept another coaching job, and the Head Coach informed Mr. Deppe that he would not be receiving a scholarship. (Filing No. 1 at 6.)

         NIU signed another punter sometime during 2015, which reduced Mr. Deppe's prospects for obtaining playing time or a second scholarship offer. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) He received official letters of release from NIU in September 2015 and began recruiting with other schools. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) During a visit to the University of Iowa (“Iowa”), the coaching staff told Mr. Deppe that they wanted him on the team if he would be eligible to play during the 2016/2017 season. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) In September 2015, Mr. Deppe's parents contacted the NCAA regarding whether he would be eligible to play in the fall of 2016. (Filing No. 1 at 7.) The NCAA indicated that because Mr. Deppe was transferring from one Division I school to another, the NCAA rules mandated that he would be ineligible for athletic competition for one year post-transfer and could not participate until the 2017/2018 season. (Filing No. 1 at 7.)

         On November 11, 2015, Mr. Deppe's attorney sent a letter to the NCAA explaining Mr. Deppe's circumstances and asking the NCAA to allow him eligibility for the 2016 season. (Filing No. 1 at 8.) The NCAA responded that it did not have a record of a waiver application on Mr. Deppe's behalf from the transfer institution, and that “the waiver process is initiated by an institution to which a student is transferring and submitted to the NCAA Academic and Membership Affairs staff for member committee review.” (Filing No. 1 at 8.) On or about November 16, 2015, Iowa granted Mr. Deppe academic admission. (Filing No. 1 at 8.) Thereafter, on November 19, 2015, Iowa informed Mr. Deppe that it had decided to pursue another punter who had immediate eligibility, and that it would not pursue an NCAA waiver on his behalf. (Filing No. 1 at 8.) On December 6, 2015, Mr. Deppe's attorney sent the NCAA another letter, explaining that Mr. Deppe faced a “chicken or egg” scenario: that Iowa would rather select a candidate with immediate eligibility, as opposed to pursuing a waiver, and therefore that the waiver process operates to the detriment of students seeking to transfer. (Filing No. 1 at 9.) The NCAA again responded that only the transfer institution could request a waiver. (Filing No. 1 at 9.)

         On March 8, 2016, Mr. Deppe filed a Complaint in this Court, asserting that the NCAA is in violation of the Sherman Act by (1) limiting the number of Division I football scholarships that a member institution can grant in a given year; and (2) promulgating a “year-in-residency” bylaw that (with exceptions) requires Division I student athletes to forego a year of athletic eligibility when they transfer to another Division I school. (Filing No. 1 at 3.) He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages.

         In Count II of this cause of action, Mr. Deppe argues that the NCAA's transfer bylaws violate the Sherman Act as an unreasonable restraint on trade. (Filing No. 1 at 31.) Mr. Deppe focuses his challenge on the “year in residence” requirement, which is listed in Article 14 of the NCAA Division I Manual. (Filing No. 1 at 19.) That bylaw reads, in relevant part, as follows:

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. 1 at 19-20).

         The NCAA moves to dismiss Count II of Mr. Deppe's Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Filing No. 27 at 9.) The NCAA also moves to dismiss all of Mr. Deppe's claims for injunctive relief under Rule 12(b)(1), arguing that Mr. Deppe lacks standing to assert them. (Filing No. 27 at 22.) And, if the Court grants the NCAA's 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1) motions, the NCAA moves to strike allegations related to the dismissed counts as irrelevant under Rule 12(f). (Filing No. 27 at 26.) The Court heard oral argument on the Motion to Dismiss on March 2, 2017. (Filing No. 42.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. R ...


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