O'BannonIn a decision that surprised absolutely no one, not even the NCAA's lawyers, the NCAA lost the O'Bannon case.
Why did they lose? Because they had a terrible case. The NCAA has been a self-justifying echo chamber for decades, and it was inevitable that at some point, they would have to go before actual grown-ups who would listen to their b.s. and find against them.
There is absolutely no justification for capping compensation of student athletes. None. There never has been. Here's a slice of Judge Wilkens' ruling (not her actual words, but a summary):
[The NCAA] member schools explicitly collude to cap compensation in the competition for athletic talent, while they squelch altogether the market for student-athlete licenses. That’s illegal unless the NCAA can come up with a “pro-competitive” justification for its conduct. Wilken knocked down each of the NCAA’s purported justifications.
Explicit collusion. That's a perfect description, and that's indefensible. And there is zero chance of it being "pro-competitive".
The NCAA twisted itself into absolute contortions in this case. They even tried to claim that television networks were paying for stadium access rights, not the rights to televise the athletes.
Like I said, what a terrible case.
As college athletics change, the evolving compensation model is going to be used to justify all kinds of awful things that universities are going to do. Every time they cut a program, they'll blame "uppity athletes", in so many words, just like they conveniently blame Title IX for everything else.
Ironically, the people who are being paid the most money here are the ones who are absolutely the most irrelevant: head coaches. They could fire every college head football coach in the five power conferences overnight, replace them with good high school coaches, and no one would care. Attendance wouldn't drop 1%. Yet coaches salaries have risen five times as quickly as university president salaries since the 1980s.
But wait, you might say. Don't head football coaches generate a huge amount of revenue for their universities, and thus deserve higher compensation? If that's true, though, why doesn't that same reasoning apply to the athletes?
Here's another excerpt:
The association claims that consumer demand for its product–football and basketball games–rests on fan preference for amateur competition. Wilken noted, though, that the very concept of amateurism is an NCAA confection and one that universities have defined inconsistently over the decades.
This is another important point. The NCAA has redefined amateurism over and over through the decades. The only consistency has been that the word "amateurism" hasn't changed. What it means, though, changes constantly.
Does anyone seriously think that people won't go to see college football--or basketball--because the players are receiving additional compensation? Seriously?
Here's a question: historically, how many times have large, extraordinarily powerful organizations or companies claimed that some kind of new regulation was going to be the apocalypse for them?
Almost every time it looks like something might change.
Now, the second question: how many times has it actually been the apocalypse?
The answer is "almost never", and it won't be in this case. It will be incredibly messy, and lots of people will be upset, but college athletics will be just fine.