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NCAA faces possible legislation changes

9/3/14 7:22pm

On August 8, a federal judge handed down a landmark decision that could drastically impact the future of collegiate athletics. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled the National Collegiate Athletic Association must allow colleges to pay athletes.

The judge’s injunction will go into effect August 1, 2015. Her order overrules the NCAA’s regulation prohibiting colleges from paying student athletes and allows schools to offer student athletes trusts funds that can be accessed after graduation. The scope of her decision, however, is limited to Division I men’s basketball and football players in the top 10 wealthiest conferences. Judge Wilken’s decision further authorizes that the NCAA could cap the amount players are paid, but the cap could be no less than $5,000 per year of play.

The judge’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed five years ago by former student athletes led by Ed O’Bannon. In July 2009, O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, filed a class action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA after seeing his likeness in an EA Sports videogame. O’Bannon did not understand why others could profit from his likeness while he received nothing years after he finished his education.

Judge Wilken found the NCAA to be in violation of antitrust laws and ruled in favor of O’Bannon. She based her decision on the profits realized by the multibillion dollar college sports industry and the reality that the existent regulations ensure players do not receive anything from the profit they generate or the subsequent use of their name or image.

       The NCAA claims the ruling could compromise their current business model and violates their principles of amateurism. The organization is expected to immediately pursue an appeal of the controversial decision.

       The NCAA and its supporters believe that paying players would undermine the integrity of collegiate athletics. The NCAA feels the value of a college education trumps a potential salary. Furthermore, prospective students could hire agents and commit to schools based on potential income rather than the quality of each program.

Rice Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard said, while he supports the NCAA, he sympathizes with O’Bannon and believes both the principles of amateurism and the rights of student athletes can be maintained.

“I can understand and empathize with O’Bannon,” Karlgaard said. “I believe in the amateur model, and the ruling the O’Bannon case helps preserve that in its limits.”

Karlgaard said Rice stands behind the principles of amateurism.

“Rice athletes are students first,” said Karlgaard. “ We support the amateur model.”

Paying players could also put smaller universities at a disadvantage. Critics of the decision state that schools with larger endowments could offer higher player salaries than schools with limited budgets. Other less profitable sports could also suffer, as their funding could be siphoned to pay basketball and football players.

The O’Bannon ruling has already impacted how coaches, players and spectators feel about college athletics.

According to Karlgaard, the focus of Rice Athletics will not change in face of the O’Bannon ruling despite its already broad impact on NCAA athletics.

“My job is the same,” said Karlgaard. “I am trying to generate more interest in the program. My job is to position Rice as a model for amateur athletics, and I am confident we can do that.”


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