A group of academics, basketball players and coaches are suing the NCAA, alleging the NCAA has violated the rights of students by barring them from participating.
The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee, seeks to bar the NCAA from making decisions that impact college basketball, including tournament eligibility, and is aimed at preventing the NCAA and other entities from using the tournament process as a “sport.”
The suit was filed in conjunction with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the nation’s governing body for college sports, as well as the Arkansas School of Law and the American Association of University Professors.
The law schools were not named in the suit.
The NCAA has said it has the right to ban participation by its members based on a “compelling interest,” and has the power to fine or suspend members if they do not comply.
But NCAA officials say the tournament is voluntary, and its members are free to participate in any manner they choose.
The school-level suits come as the NCAA begins a yearlong review of its procedures for determining eligibility for NCAA member institutions.
In addition to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs also claim the NCAA violated their rights under the 14th Amendment by requiring that schools enroll all students in their programs for the first four years of their eligibility.
They also claim that the NCAA had no right to exclude any students based on their race, gender or national origin.
The suits were filed by the American Council of Learned Societies, a group of academic and law schools, and the Law Schools and Colleges Association.
They are also being filed by lawyers for the Arkansas College of Law.
The Law Schools Association was not listed in the lawsuit.
The Arkansas law schools have been under intense scrutiny since it was revealed that some student-athletes had received improper support for travel to tournaments in Brazil, Russia and Ukraine, as part of an NCAA investigation into possible corruption at the University of North Carolina.
The university has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the NCAA announced it would begin an independent investigation into potential academic fraud at the school.
The plaintiffs, all lawyers, say the NCAA needs to act in a manner consistent with its stated purpose of protecting student-safety and preventing the abuse of athletes by academic coaches and administrators.
The case is scheduled to be heard in March.