NCAA to Appeal Ruling Busting Caps on Athlete Compensation

(Bloomberg) -- The National Collegiate Athletic Association said it’s appealing a judge’s ruling allowing athletes to be compensated for education-related expenses beyond current caps.

The strict limits set by the organizing body for U.S. college sports on how much schools can pay football and basketball players were found to violate antitrust law in a ruling this month by a federal judge in Oakland, California. The judge said the NCAA’s no-pay rules may remain in force but the organization may also adopt a definition of compensation and benefits that is “related to education” to comply with her order.

The March 8 ruling is a middle ground of sorts in a case that had the potential to shatter the college sports economy. Instead of saying that NCAA football and basketball players could be paid in an open market, similar to pro athletes, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken instead issued a much more narrow decision that will create change, but won’t fundamentally upend either sport.

The NCAA’s chief legal officer said his organization and the athletic conferences that oversee individual sports unanimously agreed to appeal the ruling, while emphasizing that the NCAA remains committed to providing “student-athletes with the educational benefits they need to succeed in school and beyond.”

“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 supporting,” Donald Remy said in a statement issued Saturday. “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 appeal will be heard by the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wilken previously sided with the athletes in a separate antitrust lawsuit led by former University of California at Los Angeles basketball star Ed O’Bannon, though she stopped short of allowing a completely open market on athlete licensing. Her 2014 ruling after a trial was later pared back by the Ninth Circuit court.

The case being appealed now is Jenkins v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, 4:14-cv-02758, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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