I linked to an Andy Staples piece last weekend in which he speculated that the conferences are looking at a choice between settling the antitrust litigation for 10-15 cents on the dollar, or fighting to the death and looking at a split with student-athletes more along the lines of 50-50. Facing those choices, most rational people would make the effort to settle, but, hey, this is the NCAA we’re talking about.
The funny thing is, it sounds like there may be a few cracks in the glass starting to show. Take, for example, what Ohio State AD Gene Smith has to say about O’Bannon:
“I don’t struggle with (covering) the cost of attendance because it’s in our financial model,” Smith said. “What we had (in the NCAA) was antiquated. But we could be getting to the O’Bannon thing, which is really pay-for-play. That’s going to be real interesting.”
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in August 2014 that the NCAA’s restriction of compensation to college athletes for use of their name, images and likeness is in violation of the nation’s antitrust laws.
The federal judge’s injunction allows schools to offer deferred payments to Football Bowl Subdivision players and Division I men’s basketball players for use of their name, image and likeness beginning in the 2016-17 academic year.
Wilken ruled that the NCAA is allowed to cap those payments at no less than $5,000 per year, but the Aug. 1 start date could be delayed if the NCAA wins its ongoing appeal before a three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“With the O’Bannon case, there isn’t much you can do,” Smith said. “You just got to sit and wait and see what (the appeals ruling) is and what the clarifications are. There are a lot of questions around that.
“You can ask questions all you want, but at the end of the day, you have to have finality in order to have clarity. And we’re not there yet. Even with the ruling, whatever it ends up finally being, you still have a million questions even if you just go down the Title IX route.”
Smith isn’t high enough in the food chain to make that call, but you have the sense he knows what’s coming down the turnpike soon and would prefer to get on with making plans to deal with that. That’s about all an AD at a P5 school can say right now.
However, Harris Pastides is a horse of an entirely different color.
NCAA Division I board of directors chairman Harris Pastides said he is not inclined to have the NCAA try to get the US Supreme Court to hear the Ed O’Bannon case if the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals rules unfavorably against the association.
Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, said that an NCAA committee is currently working on creating new NCAA bylaws allowing football and men’s basketball players to be paid if the O’Bannon injunction goes into effect. Depending on the outcome of the NCAA’s appeal, schools could begin offering players deferred payments for use of their names, images and likenesses (NILs) beginning Aug. 1. The payments would go into effect in the 2016-17 academic year.
Pastides said he thinks the NCAA made a good case in its appeal and described the O’Bannon decision as a “hybrid ruling” that at least would allow the NCAA to limit how much money could flow to athletes. The NCAA could cap the amount of money for NILs at no less than $5,000 per year.
“My hope would be that we’d get beyond this,” Pastides said in an interview with CBSSports.com from the SEC spring meetings. “You ask me if I’d like to see it appealed to the Supreme Court. I’m one member of the board. I’m eager to see us turn the page on that and start working within whatever framework we have to start working in.”
You wonder how many of Pastides’ peers are also ready to turn the page. It’s hard to believe he’s expressing himself in a vacuum.
Besides making peace at least on one front, there’s an added benefit from structuring NLI payments. Conferences could use them, as long as they meet Judge Wilken’s minimum requirement, to level out uneven COA stipends.
CBSSports.com: Wilken did include cost of attendance in the O’Bannon injunction in addition to the allowance of money for NILs. So is it your understanding that it would be $5,000 plus cost of attendance, or it would be a combination?
Pastides: I thought it would be a combination. I really do. That’s why I think (the dollar amount is) not that far away. … I think her decision would be just a bump up to five grand. But there are details that would have to be figured out. In fairness to us, if it goes through unobstructed by appeal, there would be some clarification. The NCAA would immediately have questions back: What did you mean by that? How does that get adjudicated? Literally, if we wanted to implement that ruling, it’s not clear. Just like the questions you had for me.”
Pastides may not have the court order exactly right, but you can tell where he’s going with his thinking. And this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, either.
CBSSports.com: Some members of Congress want to create a presidential commission to examine issues in college sports. Do you think that is going to happen and what do you believe Congress’ role should be in college sports?
Pastides: I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think there will be a constant din. There will probably be a minority of people wanting this anytime there is a flagrant problem [in college sports], because there will be these problems, I’m sure, every year. Congress’ role ought to be inquiring, to be interested, to be observant, but not to be managing or legislating because I think we’ve done very well all these years.”
At least they’re starting to get a clue about what things to be concerned with. On the other hand, you’ve got to laugh at this:
Pastides: I know, but I would say 90 percent or more of NCAA members — even the 65 universities in the five autonomy conferences — are not going to find it easy to find the extra money because you can’t divert it from the coaches. The only thing you really can do is either in the best case defer projects that are of value to the university and the players themselves, or increase tuition or take state appropriations away in order to pay the athletes more. There’s not a huge treasury that allows us to do that. We’re fortunate with the [SEC] Network we have some new income. That’s where we’re going to get the money.
They’re stuck with the coaches’ salaries, salaries that have been set in a market distorted by free labor costs. Poor babies.
Bottom line: college football’s landscape a year from now may look very, very different from how it appears today.