Grant House Seeking Class Status in Lawsuit for Lost NIL Pay

by Riley Overend 33

October 25th, 2022 College, News

Attorneys for Arizona State swimmer Grant House filed a 51-page brief on Friday petitioning for class certification in their antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA. 

The House v. NCAA case focuses on missed opportunities for college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) prior to the NCAA’s rule change last July. It also seeks injunctive relief for current NIL policies that attorneys argue still limit the full scope of athletes’ publicity rights. 

“The interim NIL rules do not permit direct NIL payments to athletes from the NCAA, conferences, or schools,” the brief said. “In essence, after arguing for years that NIL compensation would be the death knell of college sports, Defendants have now embraced NIL compensation, but only insofar as it is paid for by third parties and not out of their own pocketbooks.” These third-party deals, the brief claims, “do not come close to restoring to college athletes the full value of their NILs.” 

“It’s not as though Defendants do not have the means to share with athletes the billions of dollars in broadcast revenues that their NILs help to generate for Defendants,” the brief adds. College players “play in stadiums and arenas that are filled with logos—endorsements of companies that compensate their colleges—and they compete on national television in uniforms and shoes licensed by their schools.”

House, currently using his fifth year of eligibility with the Sun Devils’ program, is joined by Oregon basketball player Sedona Prince and former Illinois football player Tymir Oliver as lead plaintiffs represented by Winston & Strawn and Hagens Berman. Hagens Berman has achieved favorable outcomes for clients in the past, including winning a $208 million settlement against the NCAA concerning antitrust-related student scholarship limits, a combined $60 million settlement against Electronic Arts and the NCAA regarding player likeness rights in video games, among others. 

“The way the rules are right now, the NCAA puts college athletes who are shooting for the Olympics at a huge disadvantage to other athletes training to compete,” House told SwimSwam when the lawsuit was first filed in 2020, a year before the NCAA restored publicity rights to college athletes. “Our ability to fund our Olympic training efforts are essentially squashed by the NCAA’s rules on name, image and likeness. While Olympic athletes in general rely heavily on endorsements and other image deals to afford the cost of competing and training, the NCAA shuts us out of that opportunity entirely.”

Friday’s brief aims to establish four classes. The first is an injunctive relief class encompassing all Division I athletes who competed from June 15, 2020 (the date of the complaint) through the case’s judgment, which is slated for trial in September of 2024. The goal of this class is to change the current NCAA rules on NIL via court order. 

The other three classes are damages classes in search of monetary compensation. There’s a football and men’s basketball class featuring Division I football and men’s basketball players who have competed collegiately since June 15, 2016. The estimated size of this class is at least 6,280 members. Additionally, there’s a women’s basketball class (at least 856 members) and an additional sports class (at least 7,384 members) that also date back to 2016. 

Judge Claudia Wilken, the same judge who presided over landmark NCAA legal battles such as O’Bannon and Alston, is now tasked with making sure the plaintiffs’ petition meets a series of requirements before approval. One of those tests is verifying that the experiences of House, Prince, and Oliver are consistent with the classes they claim to represent. 

If Judge Wilken certifies the classes, the impact could be massive. 

“It would mean the NCAA and its member schools face a lawsuit that could conceivably claw back billions of dollars and redistribute that money to current and former athletes,” sports law expert Michael McCann wrote. “With House seeking billions of dollars already paid—and at least in theory, already spent—to the NCAA and member schools and conferences, it’s unclear how schools, many of which say they are financially strapped and stress there are restrictions on endowments, would foot the bill.”

At this point, the NCAA’s best bet of preventing college athletes from being compensated further might be through federal legislation. Last month, Mississippi senator Roger Wicker reintroduced an NIL bill that offers an antitrust exemption to the NCAA, schools, and conferences by prohibiting former athletes from suing for retroactive NIL. It also includes a clause that college athletes should not be considered employees. However, both Democrats and Republicans seem skeptical of such an exception. 

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Bro this guys is gonna be swimming in college for 8 years. Just start life bro. Go pro. You don’t need to be 28 and still be swimming in college 🤣 He’s pretty selfish if you ask me

1 year ago

Strictly in terms of the legal argument, the plaintiffs are going to win. The argument becomes how it will affect the flow of money and the shape of NCAA sports.

The US has an unusual system where universities are combined with (relatively) high cost and highly regulated sports programming. When i say high cost, i include the opportunity cost of the land devoted to NCAA sports (inaccessible to the avg student), the capital costs of constructing stadiums, pools,etc., and the costs of all the salaries (not merely coaches, but deans, facilities management, PR, marketing, program managers, academic helpers, compliance people, etc.).

At the same time as this elaborate NCAA system has metastasized, the health status and sports engagement of… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Jimbob
1 year ago

Does anyone know how many swimmers worldwide earn more than 5 figures a year in endorsements and how many consecutive years can they sustain that level of endorsements? Not saying they don’t deserved endorsement money but I have to wonder what the actual damages to this individual compared to the global dollar amount spent on scholarship monies that are put at risk pursuing these lawsuits

Alec Enyeart
1 year ago

Better call Saul

Reply to  Alec Enyeart
1 year ago

Nice to see humor value recognized by an athlete good enough he might actually be in line for some NIL benefits. Go Alec.

The Original Tim
1 year ago

I don’t think that House, as an individual plaintiff, would have much luck with this. Someone like Ledecky or Dressel before they went pro would’ve been a better individual plaintiff.

As one of the figureheads of a class action suit, on the other hand, rock on! I’ve been unabashedly anti-NCAA for quite a while, including here and there in the comments on relevant swimswam articles, and think it’s about time. There is no love lost between me and the NCAA as a corporate institution, so I hope they get taken to the cleaners as part of this theoretical class action.

Reply to  The Original Tim
1 year ago

There is no love lost between me and the NCAA as a corporate institution”…..Doubt The Original Tim is on the NCAA’s radar :p

Billy Bob
1 year ago

Just one more nail for the college swimming coffin

1 year ago

You’re sooo good dude

Last edited 1 year ago by Queens
1 year ago

Do I think Grant House could have made millions of dollars based off his NIL? No.

Do I think he has a point? Yes.

Why should the NCAA make billions of dollars off college sports while preventing the athletes, without whom there would be zero money, from benefitting at all?

I don’t see where all the money is going considering their employees are all free at the moment.

Reply to  JimmySwim
1 year ago

The money is going to budget for non revenue sports, academic support staff for athletes, and all the other perks of being a student athlete. Not every school is Texas or Ohio State that funnels millions of dollars back to the general student scholarship fund, most are reliant on extra student fees as well as the revenue they gain to break even.

If the spirit of this lawsuit works out then the money will go directly to athletes, but the pool of money for support staff and other perks will dry up. Unless the coaches in football and basketball are willing to have less resources (which is not likely) it will have to come from somewhere else such as… Read more »

Reply to  Hillbilly
1 year ago

I don’t understand this though. If the NCAA has to backpay millions of dollars then yes, obviously that will be an acute issue. But how will it be any different going forward? The NCAA has already decided to allow NIL.

Basically my question is: Other than the initial payout, which we know the NCAA will be able to survive, what difference does this lawsuit make to the NCAA going forward?

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »