NCAA President on Court Ruling: NCAA Did Not Violate Anti-Trust Laws

August 11, 2014 - 4:24 PM

NCAA Power Conferences

NCAA President Mark Emmert (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(CNSNews.com) – Dr. Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” acknowledged that a federal ruling that student athletes be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses in live game telecasts, video games, and other footage “potentially could” turn college sports into pro sports.

“There’s a lot in the ruling that I think is admirable and that’s consistent with arguments that we’ve been making all along,” Emmert said. However, the NCAA disagrees that there was a violation of anti-trust laws, and they will continue to argue that point and will appeal the decision “at least in part,” he said.

Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, on Friday ruled in favor of a group of current and former student athletes led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who contended that the NCAA’s rules violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.

In a 99-page opinion, Wilken wrote that “the challenged NCAA rules reasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools.”

NCAA rules prohibiting compensation for student athletes’ name, image and likeness “restrains price competition among FBS football and Division I basketball schools as suppliers of the unique combination of education and athletic opportunities that elite football and basketball recruits seek,” the judge said.

“Consistent with the less restrictive alternatives found, the Court will enjoin the NCAA from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their FBS football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images, and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid,” the court said.

The ruling “has the potential to fundamentally shift intercollegiate athletics in ways that many people are concerned about,” Emmert said.

During the trial, O’Bannon said, “I was an athlete masquerading as a student. 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.”

ABC’s Martha Raddatz referenced O’Bannon’s testimony, asking Emmert, “Can you really argue that these types of athletes are amateurs?”

“It’s a decision that Mr. O’Bannon made when he was a student, right?” Emmert said, adding that O’Bannon had “every opportunity to do as much as he wanted in school as he desired” and eventually earned a college degree.

“Many, many, many thousands of student athletes take full advantage of the opportunity to be both a student and an athlete while they’re in college, and the vast majority of them graduate. More graduate than the students who aren’t student athletes,” said Emmert. “So I believe strongly, and more importantly, the evidence demonstrates that indeed they are students.”

Though the NCAA will be allowed to cap the amount of compensation student athletes receive while in school, it will not be allowed to set it “below the cost of attendance,” the judge ruled.

“The injunction will also prohibit the NCAA from enforcing any rules to prevent its member schools and conferences from offering to deposit a limited share of licensing revenue in trust for their FBS football and Division I basketball recruits, payable when they leave school or their eligibility expires,” the judge wrote.

The injunction prohibits the NCAA from setting a cap of less than $5,000 for every year that the student-athlete “remains academically eligible to compete.”

“This is also comparable to the amount of money that the NCAA permits student-athletes to receive if they qualify for a Pell grant and the amount that tennis players may receive prior to enrollment,” the judge wrote. “Schools may offer lower amounts of deferred compensation if they choose but may not unlawfully conspire with each another in setting these amounts.”

The injunction won’t go into effect until “the start of the next FBS football and Division I basketball recruiting cycle” and “will not be “stayed pending any appeal of this order.”