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OREGON ASKS COURT TO REJECT TITLE IX SUIT’S NIL ‘THEORY’



Ahead of settlement discussions, Oregon has filed three motions attempting to dismiss or substantially pare down a federal sex discrimination lawsuit filed last year by current and former female athletes on the school’s beach volleyball and club rowing teams.


Schroeder et al v. University of Oregon is notable in that it is the first known Title IX suit that seeks relief based on alleged disparities in NIL opportunities for college athletes. The plaintiffs, who are pursuing class certification, have targeted the university’s relationship with its dedicated collective, Division Street, and Opendorse, which hosts the Ducks’ official NIL marketplace.


The plaintiffs are also asking the court for millions of dollars in damages related to what they claim was the disproportionate amount of financial aid female varsity athletes were offered over a multiyear period.


A settlement conference is scheduled for the end of next week.


Despite that, late last week the university filed separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, for partial summary judgment and for judgment on the pleadings. In the latter, the university argues that the court should dismiss the plaintiff’s “novel legal theory” about NIL.


“Plaintiffs have not alleged that the university directly or even indirectly controls the allocation of NIL proceeds by these third-party collectives,” Oregon wrote. “Further, under the current NCAA bylaws, universities cannot assist student-athletes in marketing their athletics ability or reputation.”


However, in April, the NCAA Division I board of directors approved new rules regarding NIL, which includes allowing schools to actively participate in sourcing or facilitating paid publicity deals for its athletes. Those reforms are due to go into effect next month.


Though the university does not make mention of these changes, it contends that federal law does not support “grafting an outside entities’ activities onto the University, and then making the university responsible for those entities’ actions.”


In a telephone interview, Arthur Bryant, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called Oregon’s motion “utterly meritless” and “based solely on a blatant misrepresentation.”


“The complaint doesn’t say independent third parties are violating Title IX,” Bryant said. “Oregon is violating Title IX because it is working closely with its own official NIL collective, Division Street, and its own official marketplace, Opendorse, to discriminate against its female student-athletes.”

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