In the trial brief it filed in advance of the O'Bannon trial beginning Monday, the NCAA said high-revenue schools would use cash to lure recruits if players could be compensated for their likenesses.
In the brief obtained by USA Today, the NCAA said the playing field in college athletics would then tilt towards those schools that have more revenue because they would be able to lure better players.
The NCAA's lawyers wrote that when they present their case during a trial that is scheduled to begin Monday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, they will have experts present analyses showing a scenario under which "many recruits will have significant — in many cases, six-figure — incentives to attend schools with more revenue.
"In those circumstances, it is basic economics that allowing cash payments for (name, image and likeness usage) for the first time will tilt the distribution of talent and success towards colleges and universities with more cash to spend."
The NCAA also says that it doesn't have a goal of ultimate competitive imbalance for college athletics. Rather, there should ideally be a modest competitive balance (which the sanctioning body says exists currently) between larger and smaller schools, which the NCAA is similar to the competitive balance structure in the NFL and NBA.
Got all that? Great. Here's the thing. The schools with the most revenue are already getting the top recruits. According to USA Today's revenue database, which was recently updated to reflect 2013 figures, all of the top 10 schools in 2013 revenue had 2014 football recruiting classes in the top 33 according to Rivals. That includes Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee, who had top five recruiting classes.
The numbers don't change much when looking at the top 10 in revenue minus expenses, either. The top four schools in that category (Alabama, Ohio State, Florida and Oklahoma) all had classes in the Rivals top 10.
And since schools can't compensate players for the use of their likenesses, the revenue is put to other uses like coaching staffs and souped-up athletic facilities. What are primary goals of those? You got it, to recruit the best players.
The NCAA's argument isn't surprising; the sanctioning body has long been able to say that not compensating players helps maintain some competitive balance. And while the rules regarding scholarships and compensation have been the same for everyone – at least until any autonomy reforms are passed – the revenue disparities have manifested themselves into other distinct advantages to lure better players for rich schools. Expect that point to be a strong counter-argument for the plaintiffs when the trial begins.
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