• December 20, 2014

What People Are Saying About the O'Bannon Ruling

A federal judge on Friday dealt a powerful blow to the NCAA's amateurism model, finding that rules barring college athletes from earning money off of the use of their names, images, and likenesses violate antitrust law.

Several observers said, however, that Friday's ruling—by Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif.—does not represent a fatal blow to the NCAA, even though it could help usher in a new era in college sports.

Others suggested that the ruling's real significance could emerge in the future, as the association faces further antitrust challenges and new threats to its authority. Here's a sampling of their reactions to the decision so far.

From 1984 to 2014

Gabe Feldman: Mr. Feldman, an associate professor and director of the sports-law program at Tulane University's law school, reflected on a 1984 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that said the NCAA's control of football on television violated antitrust law.

A Major Blow, if Not a Knockout

Michael McCann: Judge Wilken's ruling was a "significant, but carefully limited" win for supporters of college athletes, wrote Mr. McCann, who is a professor and director of the Sports & Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire's School of Law. While Judge Wilken sharply rejected the NCAA’s arguments about its system of amateurism, her injunction was somewhat restrained because it allowed colleges to cap athletes’ compensation at the cost of attendance. That “may not lead to significant quality of life changes for most basketball and football players,” Mr. McCann wrote. (Sports Illustrated)

The New York Times: Judge Wilken "gave NCAA officials hope that any required changes might not be the death knell that seemed imminent," the Times reported in this news analysis of the O'Bannon ruling. That's because she suggested that colleges could pay athletes through a trust fund they could access when their playing careers end and said the NCAA could set a cap on those payments, as long as the cap was at least $5,000 a year for each year that an athlete remains eligible to compete. (The New York Times)

Looking Ahead

William C. Rhoden: Judge Wilken's decision "may be equitable, but it will only escalate the so-called arms race in intercollegiate athletics," Mr. Rhoden wrote in The New York Times. "For athletes, Wilken’s ruling will make getting into a university in one of the 'money conferences' more competitive."

Mr. Rhoden said he would have preferred that the ruling specify that players receive the money "when they graduate." (The New York Times)

George Schroeder: The true significance of the O’Bannon ruling “might be in where it could lead,” Mr. Schroeder wrote in USA Today. The NCAA is also facing another set of antitrust lawsuits alleging that colleges have conspired to cap players’ compensation at the value of an athletic scholarship. “In each case, the plaintiffs will draw from Wilken's ruling in O'Bannon to try to help make their arguments,” Mr. Schroeder wrote. (USA Today)

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