Federal judge rules against NCAA in Ed O'Bannon antitrust case

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A federal judge ruled Friday that the NCAA can’t stop college football and basketball players from selling the rights to their names and likenesses, opening the way to athletes getting payouts once their college careers are over.

In a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA’s regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds. She issued an injunction prohibiting the NCAA from enforcing its rules on money given to athletes when it comes to their names, images and likenesses.

In a partial victory for the NCAA, Wilken said the body that governs college athletics could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 per athlete per year of competition for players at big football and basketball schools.

“The NCAA’s witnesses stated that their concerns about student-athlete compensation would be minimized or negated if compensation was capped at a few thousand dollars per year,” Wilken wrote.

The NCAA said in a statement it disagreed with the decision, but was still reviewing it.

But Sonny Vaccaro, the former athletic shoe representative who recruited O’Bannon to launch the suit, said it was a huge win for college athletes yet to come.

“The kids who are going to benefit from this are kids who don’t even know what we did today,” Vaccaro said. “It may only be $5,000 but it’s $5,000 more than they get now. The future generation will be the benefactor of all this. There are now new ground rules in college sports.”

The ruling comes after a five-year battle by O’Bannon and others on behalf of college athletes to receive a share of the billions of dollars generated by college athletics by huge television contracts. O’Bannon said he signed on as lead plaintiff after seeing his image in a video game authorized by the NCAA that he was not paid for.

Any payments to athletes would not be immediate. The ruling said regulations on pay will not take effect until the start of the next FBS football and Division I basketball recruiting cycle. Wilken said they will not affect any prospective recruits before July 1, 2016. The NCAA could also appeal.

Lawyers for O’Bannon and the others had sought to have millions of dollars put in trust funds for the athletes, but Wilken included a cap on payments. Former athletes will not be paid, because they gave up their right to damages in a pre-trial move so the case would be heard by a judge, not a jury.

Wilken was not asked to rule on the fairness of a system that pays almost everyone but the athletes themselves. Instead, the case was centered on federal antitrust law and whether the prohibition against paying players promotes the game of college football and does not restrain competition in the marketplace.

During a three-week trial in June, plaintiffs argued that athletes had a right to money generated by their skills and images.

Attorneys for the NCAA, though, said moving away from the concept of amateurism where players participated for the love of the game would drive spectators away from college sports and would upset the competitive balance among schools and conferences.

Several players testified during the trial that they viewed playing sports as their main occupation in college, saying the many hours they had to devote to the sport made it difficult <0x2014> if not impossible <0x2014> to function like regular students.

O’Bannon portrayed himself as a dedicated athlete who would stay after games to work on his shot if needed, but not much of a student. He said his job at UCLA was to play basketball and took up so much time that just making it to class was difficult.

“I was an athlete masquerading as a student,” he said. “I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play.”

Witnesses called by the NCAA spoke of the education provided to athletes as payment for their services and said the college model has functioned well for more than a century. They contended that paying players would make college sports less popular and could force schools to cut other programs funded by the hundreds of millions of dollars taken in by big-time athletics.

The head of the Big Ten painted a dire picture of what college sports would look like in his testimony, saying his conference would likely cease to exist and the Rose Bowl would probably not be played.

Jim Delany said the idea of paying players goes against the entire college experience and he couldn’t see league members agreeing to it. If some did, he said, they likely would be kicked out of the conference because the move would create an imbalance among schools that could not be resolved.

“There wouldn’t be a Rose Bowl if either they or we were operating in a very different wavelength in terms of paying players,” Delany said.

That theme has since been echoed by college and conference administrators, even as they move forward on plans – prompted in party by the O’Bannon suit and a unionization effort by players at Northwestern – to give expanded benefits to athletes in the 65 schools that comprise the five biggest conferences in the country.

Rutgers law professor Michael Carrier, a specialist in antitrust and intellectual property law, said the outcome might not be scary at all because the money may not be huge and will be paid only after a player’s career is over.

“My sense is something like making these payments after graduation are not really big game changers,” Carrier said. “They’re just giving the plaintiffs a little piece of the money many people would view them as entitled to. I don’t think it will put college athletics out of existence.”

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corgimom
34061
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corgimom 08/08/14 - 06:52 pm
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0
That, to me, if a violation

That, to me, if a violation of people's rights.

Those athletes should be able to make as much money as the demand allows.

bright idea
853
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bright idea 08/08/14 - 07:15 pm
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At least

the charade is over. Major college sports tried to pretend it was not about the money. Then they made athletes sign away the rights to their own likenesses so the school could profit. There will be unintended consequences but at least college presidents won't have to bluff anymore. The Dukes, Stanfords, Ga. Techs, Northwesterns, Purdues, Vanderbilts , etc. were the most guilty. How many Duke basketball players would qualify for admission if they didn't play ball? Why is Vandy in the SEC? They have nothing in common with the other 13. At least Tech is publicly supported.

justthefacts
22706
Points
justthefacts 08/08/14 - 07:52 pm
0
1
Too bad

This would kill other sports that don't produce revenue. Especially for women. Hopefully, it will be overturned.

geecheeriverman
3070
Points
geecheeriverman 08/09/14 - 04:11 am
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0
MONEY

At the end of the day, money will rule. College sports is not about education anymore, it is about the almighty dollar.

GnipGnop
12466
Points
GnipGnop 08/09/14 - 08:19 am
0
0
NCAA

Biggest pimps ever...using these kids to make billions and then acting like the kids are horrible because they won't just sit back and take it...

justthefacts
22706
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justthefacts 08/09/14 - 04:08 pm
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0
Really

Yeah, poor kids. They have to put with only a free education, free food, free clothes, free everything. The University gives them the venue to display their talents on National TV and then after 3 yrs of this, they sign a multimillion contract in the NFL. Where do I sign up?

GnipGnop
12466
Points
GnipGnop 08/09/14 - 09:07 pm
0
0
Do you realize

The small percentage of kids that make millions? They are giving more than they are getting. The colleges make billions with a b. Do a little research then come back and tell me how great these kids have it.

justthefacts
22706
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justthefacts 08/10/14 - 07:16 am
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0
Question

Well, how many kids do you think will sell jerseys. I don't see many left guards with their names on jerseys. I have not researched though (thank you corgimon lite). Billions? I doubt it. Where does the money go? Is there some greedy CEO pocketing it. No, it goes back into the University coffers and is used to support other athletes ( like that non nondescript left guard) and many minor sports that do not produce revenue. And, before we forget, these elite players do not have to go to the college...right? They don't like the deal, fine another way to make $100 million.
But, hey that's fine. Lets kill amateur sports. Instead of having the player decide where he goes to college, let's have the sports agent negotiating for the best offer.

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