New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a federal antitrust lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s transfer eligibility rule as part of a bipartisan coalition of seven attorneys general. The lawsuit alleges that the NCAA rule is an illegal restraint on college athletes’ ability to market their labor and control their education. The rule requires college athletes who transfer among Division I schools to wait one year before competing in games. While the NCAA began automatically exempting first-time transfers from the regulation in 2021, it has continued to enforce the rule for subsequent transfers with limited exceptions.
“Forcing college athletes to wait a year after transferring schools before they participate in their sport means missed opportunities, lost memories, and diminished chances to further their career and personal growth,” said Attorney General James. “This NCAA policy forces college athletes to remain at institutions they want to leave, or risk being benched for the sake of a better educational opportunity. My office has made it clear that we aren’t afraid to tackle hard cases, and that we will stand up for the rights of college athletes and everyone to pursue their passions.”
As part of the multistate lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, the attorneys general are seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to keep the NCAA from enforcing the rule. In justifying the one-year waiting period for second-time transfers, the NCAA cites the promotion of academic well-being and the preservation of athletic amateurism. But the lawsuit from Attorney General James and the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general argues that these justifications are pretextual. Furthermore, the harm the rule does to athletes, universities, and fans far exceeds any supposed benefits.
The NCAA itself describes the college athlete experience as transformative, with athletic competition playing a key role. By preventing college athletes from competing, however, their experience is severely damaged. College athletes deprived of the opportunity to compete in their chosen sports are denied the opportunity to showcase their elite skills, and suffer losses to their current and future earning potential both for athletic competition and for name, image, and likeness compensation. The one-year waiting period constitutes 20 percent of the total time allotted by the NCAA for a college student’s athletic eligibility, meaning such a suspension is devastating for students who transfer to schools that better suit their unique needs.
Joining Attorney General James in filing this lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.