Court Ruling: Colleges Don’t Have to Compensate Athletes


A recent appeals court ruling states that while colleges in the United States should cover the educational costs incurred by student athletes at their school, they do not need to compensate them beyond that point.

The 73-page decision negates a previous lower court injunction in O’Bannon v. NCAA that suggests student athletes should be paid by the schools they attend $5,000 in return for the ability to use their name, image and likeness in video games, arguing that doing so could push these athletes into professional status.  Such payments could have cost athletic departments upwards of $1 million per year.

Meanwhile, a separate decision was upheld that said schools should pay for an athlete’s full cost of attending the school, including items such as cell phone bills and visits home.  Since August 1, the NCAA has allowed member schools to offer stipends of somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000 per year to student athletes to cover these costs, writes Mark Schlabach for ESPN.

“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.”

According to the three-judge panel that ruled on the issue, the NCAA was “not exempt from antitrust scrutiny,” and that the association’s rules “have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market.”

Future lawsuits are not protected by the ruling, which includes one currently set for a hearing before the same trial judge that would remove all limits to compensation.  The case is headed by labor lawyer Jeff Kessler, considered by many legal experts to be the largest threat to the current model used by the NCAA, reports Marc Tracy for The New York Times.

The decision is largely to be a victory for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which has repeatedly faced challenges with regards to the rights of athletes, writes Edwin Rios for Mother Jones.

In a statement, NCAA president Mark Emmert said: “We agree with the court that the injunction ‘allowing students to be paid cash compensation of up to $5,000 per year was erroneous.’ 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.”

Neither side has ruled out future appeals, possibly up to the Supreme Court.

10 2, 2015
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