The plaintiffs in the Alston and Jenkins antitrust cases have filed motions for summary judgment, saying that there’s no need for a trial because the NCAA and the schools have made their cases for them.
To buttress their case, the plaintiffs cited from an array of depositions taken from some of college sports’ most prominent executives, including NCAA President Mark Emmert, NCAA executive vice president Oliver Luck, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon and Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The plaintiffs also attempted to turn a variety of NCAA rules back on the association, including the ones that allowed scholarships to be enhanced to cover the cost of attendance.
The NCAA’s and the conferences’ “price-fixing justification based on their ever-elusive concept of ‘amateurism’ is simply their version of a three-card Monte game in which the line defining amateurism never stays in the same place,” the plaintiffs wrote. The defendants “will not be able to carry their burden to prove that the challenged restraints are necessary to maintain consumer demand” in college sports.
The plaintiffs wrote that no defense witness “has identified any kind of study … into whether their compensation rules have any positive relationship to consumer demand for college sports.”
“Remarkably,” they added, Emmert “testified it was not even his ‘primary objection’ that ‘impact … on audiences either watching the TV’ or attending could be harmed by college athletes being paid beyond (cost of attendance). Rather, the dominant rationale Emmert has discussed with NCAA members is ‘philosophical.’ ”
… The plaintiffs cited testimony from Lennon and Bowlsby to attempt to punch other holes in the NCAA’s case. They noted that while the NCAA seeks to limit scholarships to the full cost of attendance and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the Ed O’Bannon antitrust case that allowing athletes to receive “cash sums untethered to educational expenses … is a quantum leap” that would irreparably damage its particular brand of sports, NCAA rules already allow athletes to receive benefits that Lennon testified are “not related to the principle of amateurism” and not tethered to educational expenses.
As just one example, the plaintiffs cited the gifts that football players can receive for playing in bowl games — and they wrote that Bowlsby testified, “I’m not sure how [gifts provided in gift suites] could be tethered to education.”
The plaintiffs argue that not only has the provision of cost-of-attendance-based scholarships and other new benefits like transportation and lodging for family members of athletes playing in the College Football Playoff or the Final Four has not hurt consumer demand, it also, according to an NCAA expert in the case “may actually ‘foster’ demand because consumers may feel positively about colleges doing more for students.”
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs argue, NCAA rules “ban myriad forms of benefits … that are tethered to education. For example, NCAA rules do not allow schools to offer guaranteed post-eligibility scholarships to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree at a school of an athlete’s choice, or to subsidize vocational training, or to offer financial incentives for academic progress or a degree.”
In addition, wrote the plaintiffs, while the NCAA contends that limiting athletes’ compensation helps to keep athletes better connected to an educational environment than they would otherwise be, in order to “collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues,” the conferences “surrender control over scheduling games to broadcasters.” To back this up, the plaintiffs filed a nearly completely redacted appendix comprising a multi-page table it titled “Defendant Contract Terms”; one column of the table was labeled “Scheduling Provisions.”
Referring to that that table, and again citing Bowlsby’s deposition, they wrote: “Defendants admit that their ‘stated beliefs and [their] actions are too often inconsistent with one another’ due to television- and revenue-driven conditions like ‘[late] 9:48 tip-off[s]’ on school nights, ‘three days of competition in a row’ and a host of other concessions that place TV broadcasters’ needs ahead of athletes.’ ”
Here’s some more real world tethering for you.
Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun launched their company, Trailheads Apparel, Feb. 2, followed a few days later with a GoFundMe page that raised $645 in two days.
Not bad for college student entrepreneurs.
The only problem was Dawson and Rathbun are University of Iowa swimmers, who, as college athletes, are prohibited by the NCAA from using their names, photos or athletic links to promote their own businesses.
“We tried our best not to put anything about swimming in it,” Dawson, a UI senior and freestyle swimmer from Centennial, Colo., said about their online pitch for the company that produces T-shirts with slogans like “Camping? It’s in-tents.”
But the GoFundMe page included the founders’ names and bios saying they met as swimmers at Iowa, which resulted in a report to Lyla Clerry, UI associate athletics director for compliance. [Emphasis added.]
They are being punished for literally using their names. There’s an education in that, somewhere. Maybe Emmert can explain his philosophy to them.
Meanwhile, at Nebraska, they’ve decided to use some of the athletic department profits to pay students. Not student-athletes, students.
Nebraska Athletics will provide $5 million in scholarships to nonathletes, potentially providing additional aid to hundreds of students each year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Chancellor Ronnie Green and Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst unveiled the Husker Scholars program Friday during a meeting of the NU Board of Regents. It will provide the first scholarships for incoming freshman in the 2018-19 school year.
… NU President Hank Bounds said if the $5 million were divided into full scholarships, more than 500 students would be able to attend college at little cost. Dividing it further could provide college aid to more than 1,000 students, which would elevate the degree attainment in Nebraska.
And if that $5 million were divided among the student-athletes who helped generate the revenue in the first place? Crickets.
It’s certainly laudable that the school is making an effort to ease the financial burden on some students. The method is ironic, though, to say the least. It should make for a great future soundbite if Nebraska finds itself having to pay players market compensation one day and takes the money for that out of this new scholarship fund. Of course, if the school were that upset about it, it could always take the money out of coaches’ and administrators’ salaries… er, never mind.