JUCO Players Sue NCAA Over D1 Transfer Rules

Disgruntled JUCO football players filed a class action lawsuit today against the NCAA over restrictions placed on transfers to Division 1 schools. Per Courthouse News:

Junior college football players say in a federal class action that the NCAA and California colleges unconstitutionally restrict their ability to transfer to, play ball for, and get financial aid from four-year schools.

The seven named plaintiffs claim the NCAA, the University of California, Cal State and other four-year California schools violate the 14th Amendment by enforcing a bylaw that prevents junior college students from getting financial aid from a Division I four-year school, extends the amount of time they must spend as full-time students at a two-year college before they may receive financial aid, and prevents them from getting an education or playing at a Division I school.

In particular, the plaintiffs seem to be unhappy with an amended bylaw passed by the SEC roughly eighteen months ago that slightly raised eligibility standards for JUCO transfers. Per the aforementioned source:

Before Aug. 1, 2009, a nonqualifier enrolling full time in a two-year college was eligible for financial aid, practice and competition if he or she graduated from the college, satisfactorily completed "a minimum of 48-semester of 72-quarter hours of transferable degree credit acceptable toward any baccalaureate degree program," had a minimum GPA of 2.0, and attended the college for at least three semesters or four quarters, according to the complaint.

The bylaw was amended by the Southeastern Conference on July 20, 2007 and enacted after Aug. 1, 2009, "to require successful completion prior to transfer to the four-year school of six semester or eight quarter hours of transferable English credit and three semester or four quarter hours of transferable math credit," according to the complaint.

Consider me highly unimpressed by this one for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, for this lawsuit to ever get off the ground, the plaintiffs will have to show that the NCAA is a state actor for purposes of the 14th Amendment, and that looks to be a very difficult showing to make. Past attempts to have courts rule the NCAA a state actor have failed -- see the Jerry Tarkanian lawsuit from many years ago -- and I figure the odds are good that happens again in this case. If that indeed comes to fruition, this lawsuit is going nowhere regardless of the actual merits of the complaint.

Regardless of the legal analysis, though, it's hard to feel sympathetic for the JUCO players named in the lawsuit, and it's even harder to legitimately justify an even greater dumbing down of the academic standards of modern day college football. Division 1 colleges already admit literally hundreds (if not thousands) of players per year who wouldn't even get the time of day of an admissions committee if they weren't athletes. And notwithstanding the relaxation of core GPA and standardized test score requirements for football players, in recent years the NCAA has declared eligible players who admittedly were illiterate, players who become eligible only through diploma mills, and there is no real doubt that there is a great number of Division 1 players with learning disabilities (even though in some cases there are reasons to question the legitimacy of their impairments). Furthermore, ACT and SAT test fraud has been a problem in the past and many feel it continues to be a problem today. With all of that as background, how can you legitimately justify even more relaxed standards? Admittedly, I've always felt the whole "student-athlete" label deified by the NCAA was a bit of a sham and a fraud, but at some point you've at least got to provide lip service to the first half of that term.

And, seriously, what is the major complaint here? That the SEC moved forward with the drastic measure of requiring JUCO transfers to complete two English classes and one math class at the Scooba Techs of the world, impossibly difficult as I'm sure those courses are. You have to feel bad for the players who don't make the cut, but in all honesty we've dumbed down the process beyond the bounds of reason as it is, and I can see no real justification as to why we need to go further in that direction just because a few players are inevitably going to fall short of the mark.

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