Former Weber State player challenges NCAA transfer rule

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) A former Weber State football player who says his scholarship was not renewed following the 2012 season has filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA alleging it violates antitrust laws by forcing players to sit out a year after transferring schools.

The lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of Devin Pugh in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, where the NCAA is based, also contends NCAA rules that limit scholarships violate antitrust provisions. Bowl Subdivision schools are limited to 85 football scholarships and the number is 63 for schools in the Championship Subdivision.

The NCAA said it was aware of ''the specific facts of the plaintiff. However, it appears that many of the allegations are patterned after litigation filed by this lawyer in other cases.''

Among the lawyers filing the lawsuit was Steve Berman of Seattle, who brought a lawsuit against the NCAA involving former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, saying it and the five major conferences violated antitrust laws by agreeing to cap the value of an athletic scholarship at less than the actual cost of attending school; a lawsuit filed by former Gardner-Webb quarterback John Rock challenging the NCAA's scholarship restrictions; and a case where a federal judge in San Francisco in July approved a $60 million settlement for college athletes in a class-action lawsuit filed against the NCAA and video-game maker Electronics Arts.

Another case working its way through the courts, led by antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, challenges universities' right to cap compensation at the value of a scholarship.

Pugh was a cornerback at Jenks High School in Oklahoma and accepted a scholarship from Weber State, an FCS school in Utah, after coach Ron McBride told him his scholarship would be renewed annually as long as he did well academically and remained eligible, the lawsuit says.

New coach Jody Sears told Pugh following the 2012 season his scholarship would not be renewed, the lawsuit says.

Several schools were interested in offering Pugh a scholarship, including Colorado State and Colorado, but those and other schools didn't do so after the NCAA denied him a hardship waiver that would have allowed him to play right away, the lawsuit states. Because he had redshirted as a freshman, he would have had only one year of eligibility remaining after sitting out a year.

Pugh later accepted a scholarship from Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, where he could play two years. The lawsuit said that scholarship was worth far less than the one from Weber State, covering only tuition, but not books, housing or other costs. The lawsuit said because of that, Pugh had to take out $6,000 a year in loans at CSU-Pueblo compared with $3,000 a year at Weber State.

''Student-athletes who jockey for these scholarships suffer severe penalties for transferring, while NCAA coaches are allowed to job hop, reaping enormous financial benefits and rising to earn more than $3 million per year,'' Berman said in a statement.

Pugh tore his quadriceps muscle in his first year at CSU-Pueblo and left the following year after he got a full-time job, nine credits short of his degree.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status, contending the NCAA's prohibition on multi-year scholarships has injured thousands of athletes by causing them to pay millions more in tuition when their scholarships are reduced or not renewed.

The lawsuit asks the court to rule that a prohibition on multi-year athletic scholarships, restrictions on the number of scholarship that can be offered and rules regarding student-athletes' ability to transfer are unlawful. It also seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.