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Antitrust settlement is a game-changer for college sports

On Behalf of | May 27, 2024 | Current Events |

The NCAA was founded in 1906 on the bedrock belief that college sports were played by amateur student-athletes. Nearly 120 years later, the NCAA and the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have agreed to pay almost $2.8 billion to settle several antitrust claims. This monumental decision sets the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start directing millions of dollars to athletes as soon as the 2025 fall semester. Subject to a judge’s approval, the deal means that the NCAA would eliminate specific rules that barred schools from making direct payments to athletes. This settlement represents a significant shift in how college athletes are compensated and could have far-reaching implications for collegiate sports.

The settlement details

The NCAA and the five major conferences have agreed to settle a series of antitrust claims with details falling into three main buckets:

  1. Revenue-sharing model: The settlement paves the way for a landmark revenue-sharing model. Starting as early as the fall semester of 2025, athletes could receive a share of the revenue generated by college sports programs. It represents a seismic shift in college athlete compensation.
  2. Elimination of certain rules: Under the terms of the deal, the NCAA will eliminate specific rules that previously prohibited schools from making direct payments to athletes. This change and the recent approval of NIL deals enable athletes to fully benefit financially from endorsements, sponsorships and other opportunities.
  3. NIL rights: The settlement confirms that athletes are no longer bound to archaic restrictions. It affirms that star players can sign endorsement deals, appear in commercials and monetize their social media presence. Athletes can leverage their popularity to earn income.

Implications and challenges

This deal represents progress, but it also raises several questions and challenges:

  1. Equity: How will revenue-sharing be distributed among athletes? Will star athletes receive more than those in less popular sports? Ensuring fairness and equity will be crucial.
  2. Compliance and Oversight: Newfound financial opportunities come with new challenges, and athletes must now navigate complex compliance rules. Schools, conferences and the NCAA will need robust oversight mechanisms to prevent abuse and maintain integrity.
  3. Title IX Considerations: Title IX mandates equal opportunities for male and female athletes. How will revenue-sharing impact women’s sports? Ensuring gender equity will be essential.
  4. Impact on College Athletics: The settlement could reshape college sports. Schools may need to adjust budgets, marketing strategies, and recruiting efforts. Fans and alums will also adapt to this new landscape, with the emergence of booster clubs’ NIL financial support of athletes possibly waning or changing.

Much left to settle

The NCAA’s antitrust settlement is a game-changer, but there are still legal questions to answer. Hubbard vs. NCAA and Carter vs. NCAA are in front of judges in the Northern District of California. Fontenot vs. NCAA remains in Colorado after the judge refused to let it become part of the Carter case. There is also the case to determine whether athletes are employees. Other discussions continue as well.