The NCAA and 11 major conferences filed a notice of appeal on Friday to challenge a ruling earlier in the month that would lift certain caps on student-athlete compensation.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled on March 8 that the NCAA violated antitrust law and said that Division I college football and men's and women's basketball players should be allowed to be compensated by schools if the benefits are tied to education.
This was not nearly as strong a ruling as the plaintiffs were hoping for since all limits on student-athlete compensation were not lifted. Still, the NCAA appealed the ruling, as expected, to the 9th Circuit of Appeals, which already signaled it would take the case.
"While the District Court upheld the distinction between full-time students who play college sports and professional athletes, it erred by giving itself authority to micromanage decisions about education-related support,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. “We believe, and the Supreme Court has recognized, that NCAA member schools and conferences are best positioned to strengthen and revise their rules to better support student-athletes, rather than forcing these issues into continuous litigation."
The claim was initially brought by former West Virginia Mountaineers running back Shawne Alston and merged with other cases, including one by former Clemson Tigers defensive back Martin Jenkins. They argued that the NCAA illegally restricts compensation beyond what is traditionally covered by scholarships.
"The court’s decision recognizes that college sports should be played by student-athletes, not by paid professionals,” Remy said after the ruling in a statement. “The decision acknowledges that the popularity of college sports stems in part from the fact that these athletes are indeed students, who must not be paid unlimited cash sums unrelated to education. NCAA rules actively provide a pathway for tens of thousands of student-athletes each year to receive a college education debt-free.”
The new rules are scheduled to begin in June, but assuming the case is taken up, they will almost certainly be delayed until the outcome of the appeal.
A familiar face in the ruling
If one name in particular sounded familiar in this ruling, it might be Wilken. She’s the same judge who ruled on former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit in 2014.
O’Bannon v. NCAA was another antitrust class action lawsuit in which Wilken ruled that the NCAA needed to offer football and men’s basketball players full cost-of-attendance scholarships and place up to $5,000 per athlete per year in a trust. This came after she found that the NCAA violated antitrust law by prohibiting student-athletes from benefitting from use of their likeness, names and images.
Naturally the NCAA made an appeal, and 9th Circuit of Appeals upheld part of the ruling, although the Supreme Court did not take up the case.
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