A ruling from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken on Friday decided that the NCAA violated federal antitrust law by limiting athlete compensation.
A group of both current and former student-athletes in Division I football and basketball filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and 11 of its conferences, according to a judicial ruling. The athletes argued that the current rules of the NCAA, which limit the compensation that student-athletes receive for athletic services, violate federal antitrust laws because student-athletes would receive greater compensation without these “artificial limits,” the ruling added.
The NCAA maintained that these rules have been in place to preserve the demand for college sports and the “amateurism” that is valued in them and to ensure that student-athletes are well-integrated into their respective college campuses, according to the ruling.
“The popularity of college sports stems in part from the fact that these athletes are indeed students, who must not be paid unlimited cash sums unrelated to education,” said NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy in a statement. “NCAA rules actively provide a pathway for tens of thousands of student-athletes each year to receive a college education debt-free.”
According to Wilken’s ruling, student-athletes contribute their talent and time as well as limiting their educational options to bring significant financial value to the NCAA, and there is a great disparity between the revenue collected by the NCAA and the benefits that student-athletes see.
Wilken concluded in her decision that allowing each conference and its member schools to give student-athletes greater education-related benefits without NCAA limits on top of academic awards will help provide the student-athletes compensation. Wilken’s remedy includes giving the NCAA the right to define educational benefits and would allow the NCAA to regulate how schools provide these awards to their student-athletes.
This case’s resolution may have a future impact on a California Senate bill proposed by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and co-authored by state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, called “The Fair Pay to Play Act.”
This bill strives to give college athletes in California the ability to sign sponsorship deals and receive other forms of compensation in an effort to lift collegiate athletes out of poverty. The majority of student-athletes who have full scholarships live at or under the poverty line, according to a 2012 study conducted by the National College Players Association and the Drexel University Department of Sport Management that was cited by Skinner in her Feb 5. bill announcement.
On top of balancing academics and sports commitments, financial burdens negatively impact student-athletes’ graduation rates, according to a 2014 report conducted by the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina that Skinner cited in the announcement. According to her bill announcement, Skinner wants to keep these students in college by preventing organizations, mainly the NCAA, from enforcing competition thresholds while also allowing student-athletes the opportunity to obtain legal representation.
“This is more than a sports issue,” Bradford said in Skinner’s announcement. “This is a civil rights issue about basic fairness.”