A proposed class action alleges the NCAA and its member schools have unlawfully conspired to fix the wages of certain college baseball coaches at zero for what amounts essentially to full-time work, and thereby suppress competition in the college baseball coaching labor market.
The 20-page complaint claims the NCAA and its member schools have engaged in an “illegal buyers’-side monopsony” by illegally agreeing via bylaw to restrict Division I schools to just three paid baseball coaches. At the same time, the case says, the NCAA and its member schools have agreed via another bylaw to allow each institution to hire an additional coach who cannot be paid, a “volunteer” who, in reality, the suit claims, performs skilled, valuable services for free.
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Although these “volunteer” coaches perform many of the same job duties as paid coaches, and often work more than 40 hours per week, they cannot receive health insurance, housing, or other benefits, “much less an actual salary in exchange for work performed,” the suit states.
The lawsuit charges that the “cartel agreements” between the NCAA and member schools to not pay the “volunteer” coaches amounts to a “naked horizontal restraint amongst competitors to purposefully restrict competition in the labor market for college baseball coaching services.”
“The very purpose and actual effect of this horizontal agreement was (and is) to fix and suppress prices so as to make them unresponsive to a competitive marketplace and to place these coaches’ compensation at zero,” the complaint states, alleging violations of the federal Sherman Antitrust Act.
The two plaintiffs respectively worked as volunteer coaches for the University of Arkansas and University of California, Davis baseball teams. The men look to represent all persons who worked as a “volunteer coach” in college baseball at an NCAA Division I school from the beginning of the court-determined statute of limitations period through the date of judgment in the lawsuit.
According to the suit, the NCAA itself earned $1.15 billion in 2021, an amount that does not include money earned by its individual member schools. In 2019, Division I member schools generated close to $16 billion in athletics revenue collectively, the lawsuit says, noting that as NCAA athletics continue to flourish, so too does college baseball.
The case relays that while the NCAA’s roughly 300 Division 1 member schools with baseball teams compete with each other on the diamond, they also compete with each other in the market for skilled coaches. In a “proper labor market,” the complaint states, each school would openly compete for coaches and pay them salaries that the market commands.
Despite the competition for skilled coaching services, and the enormous amounts of money in collegiate athletics, the NCAA and its member schools have agreed to cap the compensation for one type of assistant baseball coach at zero, the filing says. This form of “artificial restraint” prevents the unpaid assistant coaches from receiving compensation in line with what the market demands, the suit argues.
The lawsuit alleges that via a “volunteer coach” bylaw, the member schools, as horizontal competitors, have specifically conspired to agree that certain assistant baseball coaches may not be paid, or even receive more than two complimentary tickets to home games, or receive tickets to other sporting events hosted by their school. The bylaw also does not allow for these “volunteer” coaches to receive meals, other than for “meals incidental to organized team activities,” or those provided during a prospective student-athlete’s official or unofficial school visit, the suit adds.
The bylaw also stipulates that “volunteer coaches” cannot recruit players, which the suit says limits the skills that they would otherwise acquire to help boost their resumés.
The filing contends that there exists no “procompetitive justifications” for the bylaw at issue, as it does not promote retention of entry-level coaching positions, serve as a cost-cutting measure, or help maintain a competitive balance between member schools.
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