NCAA Final Four "lottery" lawsuit wins new life

* Lawsuit that had been dismissed is reinstated

* Plaintiffs faulted payment, fee processes

* NCAA had said Final Four tickets not a “prize”

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, July 16 (BestGrowthStock) – A federal appeals court gave
new life on Friday to a lawsuit accusing the National
Collegiate Athletic Association of running an illegal “lottery”
in how it had long allocated seats to popular sports
tournaments, such as basketball’s Final Four.

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
in Chicago said a lower court wrongly dismissed a complaint by
fans over how the NCAA had since 1994 awarded tickets for such
events as the Division I men’s and women’s basketball and
hockey tournaments.

The proposed nationwide class-action case challenged the
NCAA policy before this year of forcing fans to pay potentially
thousands of dollars in advance for tickets they wanted, with
sums refunded if they lost out, and assessing nonrefundable
service fees for the right to apply. The plaintiffs said this
violated Indiana anti-gambling and consumer protection laws.

Writing for the appeals court majority, Judge John Darrah
turned aside the NCAA argument that the process afforded fans
only an “opportunity” to buy tickets at full price and thus did
not constitute a “prize.”

“Plaintiffs have alleged all elements of a lottery: they
paid a per-ticket or per-entry fee (consideration) to enter a
random drawing (chance) in hopes of obtaining scarce, valuable
tickets (a prize),” Darrah wrote.

Judge Richard Cudahy dissented, saying that, while “there
may be a basis” to conclude fans were overcharged, “it is
hardly grounds for elevating the present procedure to the
status of an illegal ‘lottery.'”

The court returned the case for further proceedings to the
U.S. district court in Indianapolis, the host city for the
men’s Final Four in 2010 and women’s Final Four in 2011.

Several calls and e-mails to the NCAA were not immediately
returned.

Robert Carey, a partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP
representing the plaintiffs, said he was pleased with the
decision, and that “we plan to dig” into NCAA records to learn
more about the since-changed ticket distribution process.

The case is George et al v. National Collegiate Athletic
Association, U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, No.
09-3667.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; additional
reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Andre Grenon)

NCAA Final Four "lottery" lawsuit wins new life