While on the stand for a full day of testimony in the O'Bannon vs. NCAA antitrust trial on Thursday, NCAA President Mark Emmert stuck to the NCAA's definition of amateurism and said that athletes shouldn't be paid to play sports.
In addition to saying that fans would lose interest in college athletics if players were paid, Emmert also contended that players who weren't compensated wouldn't want to play against players that were.
"They want to know everyone is playing by the same rules," Emmert said (via the AP). "They want to know the other teams consist of student-athletes just like them."
As part of the autonomy proposals advocated by the Power Five conferences, the five richest conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) would be able to change cost of attendance for scholarships, academic support guidelines and insurance-related issues. While autonomy for the Power Five has been advocated by many and looks to pass amidst threats of separation from the big conferences, it could lead to the scenario Emmert mentions above.
In theory, the richer schools would be able to pay more to players if athletes were compensated.
Emmert also said a free market type system where players were paid based off ability and where they went to school, continuing themes he's talked about before.
Continuing on that theme, Emmert was asked if amateurism rules were essential to the goal of competitive balance? "Essential,." he said. If the model is "pay for play," he students would choose schools based on payment. And that, Emmert said, would raise the specter of big schools "stockpiling" players and hurting smaller schools.
If schools paid for name, image and licensing, would it affect competitive balance? "I can't see how it wouldn't," Emmert said.
But as we've said time and time again, the free market system is already in play in college sports. Instead of money (that's not under the table) players are compensated with athletic facilities and winning programs tend to attract better players because of their success. Suddenly paying players would not change the balance of power dramatically in college sports.
The current economic model wouldn't work for many schools if they needed to pay players as well. Emmert said he was "confident" schools would have to cut sports if players were paid.
He also rejected an idea pitched by the plaintiffs that would give each player equal shares based off the number of years played at a school and paid out when the player is done with his or her college playing career.
''It's still the same,'' Emmert said. ''It's pay for playing, regardless of whether it's paid today or paid tomorrow.''
Emmert's time on the stand will go on. His cross-examination period went so long on Thursday that his testimony will continue on Friday.
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