Athletes sue Ivy League over no-scholarship policy

HARTFORD, Conn. — A pair of Brown basketball players allege in federal court that the Ivy League’s policy of not offering athletic scholarships constitutes a price-fixing agreement that denies athletes adequate financial aid and payment for their services.

Attorneys for Grace Kirk, a member of Brown’s women’s team, and Tamenang Choh, who played on the men’s team from 2017-2022, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut. They are currently seeking class action status to represent the entire team. and former athletes from eight Ivy League schools are among the recruits starting in March 2019.

The lawsuit alleges that Ivy League schools illegally conspired to limit financial aid and not compensate athletes for their services.

“In any event, the Ivy League Agreement is unlawful per se, regardless of whether it is intended to limit the price of education, the cost of financial aid, the price of athletic services, or the level of compensation for Ivy League athletes,” the lawsuit states.

Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, and Penn do not offer merit scholarships of any kind, including athletic scholarships. The policy, which dates back to 1954, makes the Ivy League the only Division I athletic conference that prohibits member schools from offering athletic scholarships.

In a statement responding to the legal action, Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris defended the policy, noting that there are many options available to athletes at the college level.

“The Ivy League athletics model is based on the fundamental principle that student-athletes should be representative of the broader student body, including access to necessary financial aid,” he said. “In turn, choosing and embracing this principle will then provide each Ivy League student-athlete with a journey that balances a world-class academic experience with the opportunity to compete in Division I athletics and ultimately pave the way for lifelong success.”

But advocates for Brown athletes say other elite academic schools, such as Stanford and Duke, offer athletic scholarships.

“These schools are not part of the Ivy League, but demonstrate that they can maintain excellent academic standards while competing for outstanding athletes and without negotiated price limits,” the lawsuit said.

The suit also alleges that Ivy League schools have a large influence on the path to a small pool of both elite students and elite athletes, so by not offering athletic scholarships, the league artificially suppresses the market for those students.

“The natural, foreseeable, and foreseeable result of the Ivy League agreement is that Ivy League athletes paid more for their education and earned less compensation or compensation than they would have received in the absence of the agreement,” the lawsuit said.

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