DOJ and Attorneys General Join Multi-State Lawsuit Challenging NCAA’s Transfer Eligibility Rule

CHARLESTON, West Virginia – The U.S. Department of Justice has joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s transfer eligibility rules. The lawsuit, originally filed in December by seven states’ attorneys general led by Ohio, argues that the NCAA’s rule requiring multi-time transfers to sit out a year-in-residence before returning to competition violates the Sherman Antitrust Act. The addition of the DOJ and attorneys general from Minnesota, Mississippi, Virginia, and the District of Columbia on Thursday signifies the ongoing push for a permanent rule change or a court directive to override the NCAA’s transfer rule.

The lawsuit initially secured a temporary restraining order in December that granted immediate eligibility to NCAA college athletes unable to play due to the year-in-residency requirement. This decision led to a preliminary junction agreement between the NCAA, the plaintiffs, and the court, allowing athletes immediate eligibility through the 2023-24 academic calendar and fall 2024-25 season for multi-time transfers who make the switch before the end of the 2023-24 calendar. The ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to secure a permanent change in NCAA rules or a court order that supersedes them.

The involvement of the DOJ and the continued legal action emphasize that the changes made by the NCAA, such as allowing athletes to earn from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) and implementing a one-time penalty-free transfer, are not seen as going far enough. The DOJ had previously expressed concerns about the NCAA’s eligibility rules and NIL policies in a memo sent to the organization in January 2021.

This lawsuit is one of many that the NCAA is currently facing on various fronts. It was filed in the same month that NCAA president Charlie Baker proposed a Division I subdivision that would permit schools to directly compensate their athletes. These legal challenges and ongoing discussions are part of the NCAA’s efforts to seek an antitrust exemption from Congress. The topic was indirectly referenced at the recent NIL-related Congressional hearing in Washington D.C., where Baker highlighted the need for federal support and limited protection to navigate the complex landscape of collegiate athletics.

The involvement of the U.S. Department of Justice and the addition of four new attorneys general signify a united effort to push for lasting change in NCAA transfer eligibility rules. With ongoing legal battles and discussions surrounding athlete compensation and antitrust exemptions, the future of collegiate athletics remains uncertain.