The NCAA has reached a $70-million preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by former college athletes who accused the NCAA of putting their health in jeopardy by leaving concussion policies up to individual schools – as opposed to instituting a universal protocol across the country.

While $75 million may seem like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to the $765-million settlement that the NFL originally offered in its own lawsuit.

Isn’t the NCAA’s answer here pretty weak?

“It is,” college football analyst Jerry Hinnen said on Ferrall on the Bench. “It ended up being a completely different type of settlement. Basically, that $70 million is going towards a revamp of the NCAA’s concussion guidelines. It’s going towards medical research. It’s going toward record-keeping on concussions, studies and grants and this kind of stuff to sort of look into the future. And only a very, very small part of that is actually going towards any kind of reparations, for lack of a better word.”

The four original plaintiffs – former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, former Central Arkansas football player Derek Owens, former Ouachita Baptist University soccer player Angela Palacios and former Maine hockey player Kyle Solomon – would each be paid $5,000, while eight others would receive $2,500.

“It’s almost not at all actually paying back damages to these student-athletes who have had concussions,” Hinnen said. “It’s more so saying, ‘We’re going to take this money and try to make the NCAA’s response to this issue better going forward.’”

As Hinnen points out, comparing the NCAA’s lawsuit directly to the NFL’s is apples to oranges. The lawsuit against the NFL covered many different injuries and many different claims, but they were all from people playing the same sport. The lawsuit against the NCAA, meanwhile, doesn’t simply consist of big-time college football players. Rather, it’s soccer players. It’s lacrosse players. It’s women’s basketball players.

“So we’re talking about just this enormous pile of athletes that dwarf even the NFL alumni,” Hinnen said. “The NCAA has a fairly (large) stack of money hidden away, but it’s not like the NFL, either. If you’re talking about trying to take this to trial, it’d be a little bit like blood from a turnip if you’re trying to spread out a cash settlement to this many athletes. So that’s (why) the focus . . . in this lawsuit has been more about changing the way the NCAA does its concussion business – trying to get some data on the books, trying to make sure there’s like a doctor on the field for any contact sport. It’s about concussions, but it’s not really all that similar to the NFL lawsuit.”

In other news, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week that “cheating pays” in college football and that the NCAA’s enforcement is broken.

That opinion wasn’t nearly as shocking as the person expressing it.

“I was taken aback,” Hinnen said. “It’s the sort of thing you expect to hear from maybe a disillusioned former player or a retired coach that doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him anymore. To hear the sitting commissioner of one of the power-five conferences come out and say that the NCAA’s enforcement is that broken and (that) cheating pays – it was jaw dropping. I hadn’t heard anything like it.”


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