NCAA gets a mixed judgement

Provoking headlines that ranged from “Court Strikes Down Payments to College Athletes” to “Appeals Court Rules NCAA in Violation of Antitrust Laws,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday delivered a mixed bag to the NCAA in the Ed O’Bannon case. The ruling upheld a lower court decision that the organization broke antitrust laws, but struck down a plan to pay student-athletes as much as $5,000 a year. In a split decision, the three-judge panel issued a 73-page opinion, noting “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,” Judge Jay Bybee wrote. “Once that line is crossed, we see no basis for returning to a rule of amateurism and no defined stopping point.”

However, the judgement agreed with the lower court that NCAA rules violate federal antitrust laws, stating “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. 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.”

“We have not completely reviewed the court’s 73-page decision, but we agree with the court that the injunction ‘allowing students to be paid cash compensation of up to $5,000 per year was erroneous.’” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Since Aug. 1, the NCAA has allowed member schools to provide up to full cost of attendance; however, we disagree that it should be mandated by the courts.”

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