St. John’s Athletes File Lawsuit Against NCAA Over Eligibility Denial

A lawsuit was filed in a New York State court on Friday morning against the NCAA for denying two St. John’s University students an additional year of eligibility for the 2024-25 basketball season.

The complaint alleges that the NCAA’s denial of the eligibility waivers violates three New York State laws: (1) the Donnelly Act (NY’s version of the federal antitrust statute); (2) the New York State Human Rights Law Executive Section 290; and (3) the New York State Education Law Right to Pursue Higher Education and Name, Image and Likeness (enacted and amended in 2023).

The plaintiffs in the case, Christopher Ledlum and Jordan Dingle, are St. John’s University graduate students. Both graduated from Ivy League institutions, but their 2019-2020 basketball season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other conferences, the Ivy League then canceled the entire 2020-21 season because of ongoing concerns around COVID-19. 

Ledlum played three seasons at Harvard University, while Dingle played three seasons at the University of Pennsylvania. Both competed for St. John’s during the 2023-24 season but were subsequently denied eligibility waivers from the NCAA to compete in the 2024-25 season.

Feb 25, 2024; New York, New York, USA; St. John’s Red Storm guard Chris Ledlum (8) blocks a shot taken by Creighton Bluejays center Ryan Kalkbrenner (11) in the second half at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports via Imagn.

The core issue in the lawsuit is the NCAA’s controversial application of the COVID-19 waiver, which grants athletes an additional year of eligibility if they competed during the 2020-21 season, but does not extend this opportunity to athletes who did not compete that year. This waiver allows eligible athletes to compete in five seasons over a six-year period, instead of the standard four seasons within five years. The NCAA enacted the COVID-19 waiver due to the pandemic causing a shortened 2019-2020 season.

In essence, Ledlum and Dingle have been denied the opportunity to compete during the 2024-25 season due to the Ivy League’s decision to cancel the 2020-21 season and the NCAA’s refusal to extend a waiver to those athletes who did not compete that year. 

Similar to the language used in other federal antitrust lawsuits currently challenging the NCAA’s rules, this complaint alleges that “the NCAA and the NCAA member institutions have agreed to unlawfully restrain the ability of Division I college athletes to compete despite facing circumstances beyond an athlete’s control,” therefore violating the state’s antitrust statute.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the NCAA violated NY’s Human Rights statute and NIL law by undermining the athletes’ ability to pursue an education, monetize their NIL, and fully prepare for a professional career.

With the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball transfer window closing on May 1, St. John’s could decide to fill all their roster spots under the assumption that Ledlum and Dingle will not be given another year of eligibility.

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