The NCAA warns the judge in the O’Bannon case that if the players prevail, a bunch of schools will just take their balls and go home.
Lawyers for the NCAA wrote in a federal-court filing Thursday that if the association’s current amateurism rules were lifted, as proposed in a lawsuit pertaining to the use of college athletes’ names, likeness and images, some schools might exit Division I or Bowl Subdivision football because of the financial and legal burden that would result from needing to share revenue with football and men’s basketball players.
The assertion was backed by written statements from a group of conference and university executives, including the University of Texas’ top athletics officials, the chancellor of the California State University system and the presidents of Utah State and Wake Forest.
Texas’ argument boils down to this: Texas makes money. Texas doesn’t want to share what it makes.
Texas “has no interest in a model that would force us to professionalize two sports to the detriment of the balance of the athletics department’s sports, fitness and educational programs,” says a statement from Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds and Texas women’s athletics director Christine Plonsky. Dodd and Plonsky oversee a program that generated a college-sports record $163.3 million in 2011-12, according to its recent financial report to the NCAA report.
Let’s face it – that’s how the rich stay rich. And if the ‘Horns have no interest, why should we expect that any school should? Summary judgment, and be quick about it, my good jurist!
If that’s not clear enough, Wake Forest wants to make sure when the NCAA says prevail, it means prevail on any part, even if that results in twisting a few definitions along the way.
Hatch’s statement in Thursday’s filing said: “Instituting a pay-for-play model, even if the payments are deferred to after graduation would change the nature of the relationship Wake Forest has with its football and men’s basketball student-athletes. It would, essentially, turn those teams into professional squads. That would not be acceptable to Wake Forest.”
Now remember, first of all, the type of compensation the plaintiffs seek:
In seeking certification of their suit as a class action, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said that while they are seeking monetary damages on behalf of former athletes, they “do not seek compensation to be paid to current student-athletes while they maintain their eligibility” but rather “a less restrictive, namely that monies generated by the licensing and sale of class members’ names, images and likenesses can be temporarily held in trust” until their end of their college playing careers.
Calling that “pay-for-play” is a stretch. What is being sought is that moneys being generated from use of players’ likenesses be shared between schools and athletes. And we’ve really gone down the rabbit hole if players who are not being paid (because such payments are deferred until they’ve left college) are to be labeled professional, while student-athletes who were fortunate enough to be paid for their professional participation in sports other than the ones in which they’re engaged at college aren’t. I think I’ll need a new dictionary.
And that doesn’t even begin to take into account that some of the revenues in question aren’t generated until the student-athletes have left college.
But here’s the best part of all from the NCAA’s legal eagles:
“The likelihood that at least some schools would simply stop providing athletics-based aid … either by eliminating their football or men’s basketball team, or by adopting a Division III model prohibiting all athletics-based aid means some portion of the class is better off in the real world … and therefore suffered no antitrust impact from Division I’s allegedly illegal rules.”
Get that? In other words, players, you’ll lose by winning, because your schools will simply choose to walk away. So it really doesn’t matter if there’s an antitrust violation now.
I guess this is how you define doubling down. The question going forward will be whether the NCAA’s shrillness resonates with the judge. If it doesn’t, and things go badly enough at trial, my bet is that eventually the NCAA goes fishing for an antitrust exemption.