The appeals court has ruled at a time when the NCAA, under unprecedented public pressure, is loosening a few restrictions, such as allowing schools to cover athletes’ food costs and other essentials beyond education.
Emmert however was critical of the court’s mandate to allow schools to compensate players in tuition costs. But make no mistake about it: There are important details about this decision that could have major impact on the future of the NCAA.
A three-judge panel – Sidney R. Thomas, Jay S. Bybee and Gordon J. Quist – in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NCAA’s limit on what schools can provide football, and men’s and women’s basketball players is too low, USA Today reported.
Wednesday’s case is also seek- ing damages for past compen- sation that athletes were denied before the NCAA full cost-of-attendance model fell into place.
A federal appeals court has spared the NCAA from paying student athletes and compensating them for use of their likeness. The hangup comes from the fact that the court doesn’t believe the plaintiffs successfully argued that further compensation wouldn’t diminish the NCAA’s amateurism model, which is asking them to do the almost-impossible task of proving a negative. A three-judge panel found that the NCAA’s amateurism rules do violate antitrust laws, but the appellate court also struck down the trust fund portion of the case.
The majority opinion quoted approvingly an NCAA expert who had said during the trial of the case that “if you’re paid for your performance, you’re not an amateur”.
More than 20 current and former athletes filed an antitrust class action against the NCAA. If athletes were to start receiving large sums of money, they agreed with the NCAA’s reasoning that it could create a “wedge” between athletes and other students. “I think we now are well-positioned to move ahead with the rest of the challenges that we face”. Its two-to-one decision striking down a federal judge’s award of a post-college payment of $5,000 for each year on a college team was based explicitly on the impact that such a system of pay would have on the amateur character of college sports.
“We’re going to try to fully develop the record to establish that the conferences could compete and pay student-athletes without interfering with amateurism”, Berman said. Everyone who cashes a paycheck derived from college sports revenues is profiting off the sweat, injuries, and heroics of young people who have no alternative route into the professional leagues where those skills and sacrifices can make them rich. “The athletes as a whole have a right to participate in the broadcast licensing market”.
As Michael Hausfeld, lead attorney for the O’Bannon group, said after the announcement of the decision, the court “has affirmed that the NCAA and its member schools are a price-fixing cartel that has long violated antitrust laws” and “that [ruling] will translate into real money for college athletes”.