Clemson junior defensive back Martin Jenkins has joined a lawsuit filed against the NCAA's 'power five' conferences that experts say could dramatically impact the way that major college athletics operates.
In what ESPN describes as "the most direct challenge yet to the NCAA's longstanding economic model," high-profile sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler filed an antitrust claim Monday in a New Jersey federal court on behalf of a group of college basketball and football players, arguing the NCAA has unlawfully capped player compensation at the value of an athletic scholarship.
"The main objective is to strike down permanently the restrictions that prevent athletes in Division I basketball and the top tier of college football from being fairly compensated for the billions of dollars in revenues that they help generate," Kessler told ESPN. "In no other business -- and college sports is big business -- would it ever be suggested that the people who are providing the essential services work for free. Only in big-time college sports is that line drawn."
The class action lawsuit lists Clemson's Jenkins, UTEP tight end Kevin Perry, California tight end Bill Tyndall and Rutgers basketball player J.J. Moore as plaintiffs, and names the ACC, the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pac-12. Jenkins, a rising senior, is the only one of the athletes with college eligibility remaining.
Jenkins joins senior Clemson defensive back Darius Robinson in taking legal action against the NCAA. Last year, Robinson became part of the O'Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit, which is still pending.
Kessler's suit immediately follows up on a similar suit filed earlier this month on behalf of former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston. In that suit, the same defendants are being asked to pay the difference between the value of an athletic scholarship and the full cost of attendance.
Kessler's suit takes the argument a step farther and challenges the legality of any payment cap imposed by the NCAA.
Kessler charges that NCAA members are acting as a "cartel" by fixing payments made to athletes.
"We're looking to change the system. That's the main goal," Kessler told ESPN. "We want the market for players to emerge."
Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc