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Deppe v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 25, 2018

Peter Deppe, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
National Collegiate Athletic Association, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued September 13, 2017

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:16-cv-00528-TWP-DKL - Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge.

          Before Bauer, Rovner, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          SYKES, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         This case raises an antitrust challenge to the NCAA's [1] "year in residence" rule, which requires student-athletes who transfer to a Division I college to wait one full academic year before they can play for their new school. A Division I football player filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the rule is an unlawful restraint of trade in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act. The district court dismissed the suit on the pleadings.

         We affirm. The year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics and is therefore presumptively procompetitive under NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma, 468 U.S. 85 (1984), and Agnew v. NCAA, 683 F.3d 328 (7th Cir. 2012).

         I. Background

         The case comes to us from a dismissal on the pleadings, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), so we take the following factual account from the complaint, accepting the allegations as true. Peter Deppe was a star punter in high school, and several schools recruited him to play college football. He chose Northern Illinois University ("NIU"), a Division I school, and enrolled in June 2014 as a preferred walk-on. In other words, NIU invited him to join the football team but did not offer him an athletic scholarship. Deppe decided to "red shirt" his first year; this meant that he practiced with the team during the 2014 season but did not compete, and the clock did not run on his four years of NCAA athletic eligibility.

         Shortly after Deppe enrolled, an NIU football coach told him that he would start receiving an athletic scholarship in January 2015. That coach soon left NIU, however, and the head football coach later informed Deppe that he would not receive the scholarship after all. Sometime in 2015 NIU signed another punter, reducing Deppe's chances of getting playing time or receiving an athletic scholarship, so in the fall of 2015 he started shopping around for a new football program.

         The University of Iowa, another Division I school, was interested. Coaches at Iowa told Deppe they wanted him to join the team if he would be eligible to compete during the 2016-2017 season. Deppe's parents asked the NCAA about their son's eligibility to play. The NCAA responded that under its year-in-residence rule, Deppe would be ineligible to compete for one year following his transfer.

         The year-in-residence bylaw appears in the eligibility section of the NCAA Division I Manual. It provides:

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.

NCAA Division I Manual, 183, http://www.ncaapublications. com/productdownloads/D118.pdf.

         The NCAA permits a one-time transfer with immediate athletic eligibility in certain limited circumstances. The so-called one-time transfer exception is available to a Division I football player only if he transfers from a school in the Football Bowl Subdivision to a school in the Football Championship Subdivision with two or more seasons of athletic eligibility remaining, or if he transfers from a Football Championship school that offers athletic scholarships to a Football Championship school that does not. Id., ...


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