A three-judge panel of The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that the NCAA may restrict colleges from compensating athletes beyond the cost of attendance, according to USA Today.
They agreed that the NCAA's use of college athletes' names, images and likenesses in video games and TV broadcasts violated antitrust laws, but continued to strike down a plan to allow schools to pay players up to $5,000 per year in deferred payments.
The three-judge panel was split when it came to the payments, with one judge going away from the majority opinion that the deferred compensation idea should be removed. They could not stop schools from providing full scholarships to student-athletes but took out the proposal for deferred cash.
"The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules,” the panel wrote, according to USA Today. “In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”
According to the report, one of the judges, Jay S. Bybee, wrote, “We have little doubt that plaintiffs will continue to challenge the arbitrary limit imposed by the district court until they have captured the full value of their” images, names and likenesses.
In the report, he also goes on to say: "The difference between offering student-athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor; it is a quantum leap. Once that line is crossed, we see no basis for returning to a rule of amateurism and no defined stopping point. … At that point the NCAA will have surrendered its amateurism principles entirely and transitioned from its 'particular brand of football' to minor league status. I think the ruling does provide greater clarity on a number of fronts.
Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, agreed with the judges’ decision, saying: “The fundamental notion of pay for play, as it’s often referred to, is at odds with the notion of amateurism and at odds with the fundamental underpinnings of collegiate athletics. The ruling has those statements in there in pretty direct language. I hope that will, in some ways limit some of the legal arguments that are being made.”
The NCAA said, “Paying college athletes would destroy its system of amateurism, and the rules designed to protect that system had never previously been found by courts to violate antitrust law.”
NCAA attorney Seth Waxman cited a 1984 U.S Supreme Court ruling during oral arguments that said athletes must not be paid in order to preserve the character and quality of college athletics.
Michael Carrier, a Rutgers-Camden law school professor and antitrust expert who has been involved with a friend-of-the-court filing on behalf of the plaintiffs, told USA TODAY via e-mail that type of language could hurt one aspect of the lawsuits that will be going before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken. Bybee's language "makes it hard to see how future attempts to get even more money for students ... would be successful. If even this deferred [money] doesn't fly, nor would greater amounts that have even less to do with educational expenses."
The NCAA had appealed Wilken's 2014 decision to allow players in Division I football and men's basketball to be paid. In her ruling, she said, “The NCAA would be able to cap the amount of new compensation that the football and men's basketball players can receive while they are in school, but that cap would not be allowed to be an amount that is less than the athletes’ cost of attending school.”
Wilken also decided to “let schools and conferences deposit money in trust for football and men's basketball players that will become payable when they leave school or their eligibility expires. Under this setup, the NCAA would be allowed to set a cap on the amount of money that may be held in trust, but that cap cannot be less than $5,000 in 2014 dollars -- now about $5,040 -- for every year the athletes remain academically eligible. The new benefits were set to be put in place for both incoming and returning athletes, beginning with the 2016-17 school year. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others.”
It doesn’t look like the battle between the NCAA and the student athletes is going to end anytime soon. These battles have been going on for decades and even after this ruling there is no reason to think they are going to stop.
The student athletes want more than a full-educated compensation; like former UConn star Shabazz Napier said “I don't feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I'm starving."
While the NCAA believes paying college athletes would ruin the character and quality of college athletics, Emmert has said, “Once that line is crossed, we see no basis for returning to a rule of amateurism and no defined stopping point.”
The general perception has turned toward the expansion of athlete’s rights but the payments potentially raise new questions about competitive balance in college sports, Title IX rules relating to women’s sports and athletic department bottom lines.
All of these questions, with added pressure of the NCAA not wanting to hurt their college sports’ business model, is why the student athletes have yet to be compensated, even though the courts agreed that the NCAA's use of college athletes in video games and TV broadcasts violates the antitrust laws.
Jimmy Calhoun is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.