By Ken Reed

The challenges for the NCAA keep coming.

The latest is a lawsuit filed by three athletes against the NCAA and the Power Five conferences claiming that rules prohibiting schools from paying their athletes violate antitrust law.

That lawsuit sits on top of another lawsuit, House v. NCAA, that claims the NCAA cost former athletes billions of dollars because of old rules that restricted athletes from making money through endorsement deals.

Duke football player Dewayne Carter, Stanford soccer player Nya Harrison, and TCU basketball player Sedona Prince brought the latest lawsuit against the NCAA. They are seeking an injunction that would prevent the NCAA from prohibiting pay for play compensation. It also seeks damages for payments athletes would have received in the past if current rules weren’t in place.

“It’s time for the NCAA to recognize that the rules prohibiting athletes from sharing in the massive revenues we help to generate are harming all college athletes,” said Carter.

“There are hundreds of people involved in NCAA sports but the only ones who cannot be paid are the athletes; I’m proud to stand up for all college athletes to correct that injustice.”

Charlie Baker, the NCAA’s new president, sees the writing on the wall. He recently announced a proposal to allow schools to sign NIL (name, image and likeness) deals directly with athletes, in which the athletes would be paid through an “enhanced educational trust fund.” Baker is also seeking an antitrust exemption from Congress to stop athletes from filing antitrust lawsuits, like the one just filed by Carter, Harrison and Prince.

Baker’s actions wreak of desperation. The NCAA lost both the O’Bannon v. NCAA and Alston v. NCAA cases which gave college athletes significantly more rights when it comes to economic compensation The legal presumption of validity for the NCAA’s archaic amateurism rules no longer exists, as college sports have continued to thrive despite the injection of NIL payments for athletes.

That said, the current landscape in big-time college athletics is untenable. It’s the Wild, Wild, West, as there basically are no NIL rules in college athletics. Different states look at NIL differently. Moreover, schools and conferences have different NIL guidelines, if any, and in reality, are basically doing whatever they want, all of which is negatively impacting competitive balance. However, the NCAA is basically toothless today and incapable of developing any national standard in the area of athlete compensation.

The losses keep mounting for the NCAA. A few days ago, the NCAA lost a legal challenge regarding transfer rules for athletes. Thanks to a preliminary injunction, athletes who have transferred more than one time are now immediately eligible for the remainder of the 2023-24 competitive school year. Prior to the preliminary injunction, athletes transferring the first time were eligible to play immediately. But athletes transferring two or more times had to sit out a season.

UCLA football coach Chip Kelly recently called for college football at the highest level (FBS) to separate from the NCAA, hire their own commissioner, and basically make their own rules. He’s on the right path. The NCAA, as we’ve known it, is all but dead. A new structure and governing organization is on the way and it will undoubtedly look a lot more like the NFL than it does today’s NCAA.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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