Chicago State fraternity is suing the NCAA over eligibility denial

Twin brothers Matt and Ryan Pioli, former five-star players who signed to play basketball at Chicago State this season, have sued the NCAA in federal court after being denied eligibility to receive money they say was generated from Their name, photo and likeness during the competition. For Elite Overtime Academy.

The federal antitrust lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Wednesday, accuses the NCAA of violating its own whistleblower policies, the Illinois Student-Athlete Endorsement Rights Act and federal antitrust laws.

The brothers, who lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before competing at Overtime Elite Academy in Atlanta, are seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction from a federal judge to compete at Chicago State, which opens the season Monday at Bowling Green.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on the injunction.

Under pressure from state laws, the NCAA changed its rules in July 2021 to allow athletes to make money by selling the rights to their name, image and likeness. But according to the lawsuit, the Bewleys were declared ineligible because the NCAA says they were paid a salary. According to an email from the NCAA cited in the lawsuit, the Overtime Elite Twins’ compensation exceeded actual and necessary expenses allowed under NCAA rules; They competed within a team that considered itself professional; And compete with and against other professionals.

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The Bewleys’ lawyers claimed that the twins sold their NIL rights to Overtime Elite Academy and were compensated for it.

“The NCAA simply ignores this indisputable fact because the compensation package is described as ‘salary’ in the Bewleys’ contract while subsequent versions of the OTE contract described the compensation as ‘scholarship,’ ‘financial aid,’ and nothing compensation.” The lawsuit reads.

Overtime Elite (OTE) opened in the fall of 2021 with the goal, according to its website, of providing “an alternative path for athletes looking to play basketball at the next level.”

In its inaugural season in 2021-22, in which the Pioli twins competed for the first time, OTE only offered professional opportunities. Players reportedly earned a minimum salary of $100,000, but others were paid more. The following fall, according to the website, “OTE began offering athletes the option of scholarships — in lieu of a stipend — providing unparalleled teaching and learning opportunities at OTE while maintaining college eligibility.”

Two former OTE players, the Amen twins and Ausar Thompson, were the No. 4 and 5 picks in June’s NBA draft by the Rockets and Pistons, respectively.

According to documents filed in the case, the Pioli twins were each paid at least $33,333 a month while competing in the OTE during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons. In an email to Chicago State University associate athletic director Tom Deveney, NCAA assistant athletic director Morgan Melchert wrote that the Twins earned $31,347 “more than they would earn to cover their additional expenses per month.”

Melchert wrote that the average monthly spending in the United States is $5,577 per month, but because the Bewley twins received additional benefits, including housing, three meals a day, transportation reimbursement, and educational services, they were allowed to receive only $1,986 per month to cover Additional expenses.

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“If a prospective student-athlete receives any amount greater than what Defendant considers to be an actual and necessary expense, the NCAA proposes that it has the right to permanently exclude the prospective student-athlete from intercollegiate athletic competition,” according to the lawsuit.

“Based on its prior communications with the Bewleys and Chicago State University, Defendant made an arbitrary determination that the Bewleys received compensation from a professional team that was above the actual and necessary threshold set by the NCAA, while their teammates received comparable compensation from the same team.” “They were compensated permissibly for the use of nothing.”

The NCAA and the Bewleys’ attorney, Dominic Price, did not respond to requests for comment from ESPN on Friday.

NCAA Bylaw provides an exception that allows student-athletes in sports other than ice hockey and skating “to compete on a professional team provided that the individual receives no more than the expenses actual and necessary for participation on the team.”

The Bewleys’ attorney argued in the complaint that the NCAA’s bylaw is “an artificial salary cap imposed on young athletes who aspire to compete in intercollegiate athletics. This regulation prevents aspiring student-athletes from receiving compensation from teams in excess of amounts deemed appropriate by the NCAA.” “actual and necessary.” Expenses.”

Lawyers accused the NCAA of using “selective enforcement” in declaring the Pioli twins inactive because the governing body granted overtime eligibility to two former elite players: freshman guards Rob Dillingham of Kentucky and Kanan Carlisle of Stanford. Carlisle and Dillingham played for the Overtime Elite team last season, after a scholarship route became available.

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“The NCAA cannot, by its actions, treat Overtime Elite as a high school amateur show and then later declare it a professional league for only two specific individuals,” the lawyers wrote in a motion. “Such selective enforcement is an abuse of power that cannot withstand judicial scrutiny under the rule of reason.”

The brothers were the first players to sign with Overtime Elite after playing at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Florida, in the 2020-21 season. Matt, a 6-foot-9 forward, was ranked third overall and the No. 1 power forward in the 2023 ESPN 300 before signing with Overtime Elite. Ryan was the No. 12 player and No. 6 power forward.

Chicago State, one of only two independents in Division I, went 11-20 last season. Cougars coach Gerald Gillion was the Twins’ AAU coach with Team Breakdown in Florida.

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