“related to education”

You probably ought to prepare yourself to hear that expression quite a bit in the future.

It’s at the heart of Friday’s ruling in the Alston case, which is something of a mixed bag, as the header on the AP’s summary — “NCAA can claim victory after losing federal antitrust case” — illustrates.

The victory is both real and spectacular if you’re all about the short term… you know, like the NCAA and the schools are.  Judge Wilken left the biggest prize in their hands.

At the same time, however, her 104-page ruling prevents athletes from receiving unlimited benefits, as the plaintiffs had hoped.

The NCAA “may continue … to limit compensation and benefits that are unrelated to education,” Wilken ruled.

Their win is far from complete, though.  First, Wilken again found that the NCAA’s current limits on athlete compensation “unreasonably restrain trade.”  She went on to find that there is one form of compensation no longer within the NCAA’s jurisdiction to regulate.

A federal judge ruled Friday night that the NCAA cannot “limit compensation or benefits related to education” for athletes playing Division I men’s or women’s basketball or Bowl Subdivision football.

Among the items U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said these athletes may receive are scholarships to complete undergraduate or graduate degrees at any school. The judge also appeared to open the possibility of athletes being able to receive cash or cash-equivalent awards based on academics or graduation, albeit under some constraints.

The response to that can range from the fairly benign — I seriously doubt that, regardless of one’s feelings about amateurism, anybody out there is going to object to schools offering scholarships for graduate work, or for studies for a former student-athlete’s lifetime — to the whatever Nick Saban can cook up after assigning a couple of analysts to the usual routine envelope-pushing (“Tell Sankey that these kids can’t get to campus and their studies without that new Mercedes we’re furnishing them”).  And that’s even before you get to the argument that “related to education” isn’t just about going to class.

If you’re the NCAA, however, that’s not the truly alarming part.  This is.

And this.

And this.

Judge Wilken, then, as findings of fact, shredded every argument the NCAA’s lawyers made to justify the current amateurism protocols.  So why didn’t she proceed to give the Alston plaintiffs everything they asked for?  Well, that takes us back to the header, “related to education”.  That’s the justification the Ninth Circuit used in O’Bannon to limit the antitrust relief granted in that case, and Wilken feels bound by that precedent.

Make no mistake, though, that’s a problem for the NCAA.  Call an organization an illegal cartel often enough (and this ruling makes it three straight times, including once by the very same Ninth) and pretty soon everyone sees it in that light.  The schools have to be worried that some court out there finds they’re running a cartel while not being concerned about the “related to education” standard the Ninth Circuit crafted (yes, it’s unique to O’Bannon).

What should even scare the NCAA even more, however, are the ramifications in the political realm.  We’ve already seen a member of the House Freedom Caucus introduce legislation to allow student-athletes to monetize their names, likenesses and images this past week.  How much easier does it get for legislators to jump into a game where universities are labeled lawbreakers by courts?

“There is a great disparity between the extraodinary revenue” that the NCAA and the schools get from Division I basketball and FBS football “and the modest benefits” athletes “receive in exchange for their participation in these sports relative to the value of their athletic services and the contributions they make,” Wilken wrote. Athletes “contribute their elite talent and time, they limit their educational options, and they risk their long-term health to create enormous financial value” for the NCAA and the schools.

“Allowing each conference and its member schools to provide additional education-related benefits without NCAA caps and prohibitions, as well as academic awards … may provide some of the compensation student-athletes would have received absent” the NCAA’s compensation limits.

The Congressional hearing on student-athlete compensation almost writes itself from there.  You would think that’s a sobering warning for an organization animated by even a shred of proactive sensibilities.  But this is the NCAA we’re talking about, so don’t expect any miracles on that front.  For one thing,

… because Wilken determined that her decision constituted a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, she ruled that the NCAA will have to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs. This is an amount likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Donald Remy sounds like a man who’s got the litigation shampoo ready for another round of lather, rinse and repeat.

“Although the court rejected the plaintiffs’ desire for a free market system, we will explore our next steps as appropriate,” a statement from the NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, said in part. “We believe the ruling is inconsistent with the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in O’Bannon. That decision held that the rules governing college athletics would be better developed outside the courtroom, including rules around the education-related support that schools provide.”

In other words, the NCAA’s gonna NCAA, y’all.  At least it can still afford to.


Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

23 responses to ““related to education”

  1. FlyingPeakDawg

    Color me shocked the plaintiffs lawyers are the big winners.


  2. One of Wilkens’s point the Senator highlighted is a good one from a political/public relations perspective. The massive increase in revenue paid to NCAA schools went to massive increases in money paid to the McGaritys and Reserve Fund managers and indoor practice facility contractors without any meaningful increase in economic benefits paid to the people we buy tickets to watch.

    Back in the day when Dooley and Director of Athletics Joel Eaves were paid salaries in line with the salaries top professors were paid the disparity between the economic benefit to players and economic benefit to Associate Athletics Directors and Assistant ADs was not shocking.

    Now the management and others outside individuals take almost all of the increased revenue and the managers refused to share any of it with the people I pay to watch. That disparity in distribution of the increase in revenue is a driving force in the rising public support for modifying the player compensation model. If the suits had just given players additional spending money when TV revenues skyrocketed the NCAA may not have been sued. Just as “If you’re not first you’re last” was a line from a movie and not an actual philosophy to live by, “Greed is Good” was a movie line and isn’t a philosophy to live by.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you think that you should look at pictures of the facilities that existed back when Dooley was the coach ans compare that to what they have now.


      • Gaskilldawg

        Surr, the facilities are much better now, but the game was exciting and competitive to me as a fan in 1972 as is now.
        While the facilities are much, much better now Todd Gurley couldn’t pay his Mom’s power bill by sending the power company as picture of the weight room.

        UGAA found a way to build better facilities while increasing athletic department salaries tenfold. The colleges had plenty in the “compensation ” budget to spread a little to players but the NCAA suits said, “keep it all gof yourselves. ” My point is sharing little may have prevented the lawsuits


  3. 69Dawg

    Why do judges always try to be Solomon and split the baby. They always rule in a way to encourage more litigation. Some of them write options like they are great novelist. The judges appointed for life are the biggest problem this Republic have. Believe me I testified for the government enough times to know they mostly think they are gods.

    When is a judge going to rule that the NCAA is violating the rights of the players in the matter of the player’s likeness.


    • Anonymous

      When is a judge going to rule that the NCAA is violating the rights of the players in the matter of the player’s likeness.

      IDK, but it should have been forever ago. I understand requiring a royalty free license as part of the scholarship offer, but limiting their ability to sell their likeness rights to others or accept sponsorship is an obvious restraint on trade. There is the argument that the value of their likeness is derived from their association with the University. For someone like me, that is 100% true. I would not give a shit about any of these players if they didn’t play for Georgia. That increase in value of likeness rights is part of their compensation in my opinion.


      • There is the argument that the value of their likeness is derived from their association with the University. For someone like me, that is 100% true.

        That would totally explain the black market in high school basketball players we’re seeing exposed now. (And Cam Newton.)

        I really wish you guys would stick to a simple “I don’t like paying college players” declaration.


        • Anonymous

          The black market for players is about their talent and ability help them win. Auburn didn’t pay 180k for Cam’s likeness. The only reason I give a shit about Cam Newton is that he went to Auburn and I hate them.

          I have never had an issue stating that I don’t want to convert an amateur sport to a professional sport. I don’t like paying college players because then the entire situation becomes retarded. If you pay them a salary as an employee, it is stupid to have the requirement that they go to school as no other job has that requirement. That is a restraint on trade. Why would there be a limitation on eligibility? That would then be another restraint on trade as no other job has a limit of 4 working years in a 5 year time period.

          What about all of the teams that operate at a loss? How could it be legal to force students to pay athletics fees in order to support the salaries of professional football players? If they aren’t students, then why hell would a professional football team be attached to my Alma Mater and why should I care? At that point, basically everything I love about the game has been taken away. I think they should be treated like Olympians. Olympians do not collect a salary. They can accept sponsorships and can profit from their likeness via commercials.

          I think the idea that pretending that people that collect a salary for their work are not professionals so that you can impose a bunch of restrictions on who can collect that salary is much more hypocritical than the status quo.


          • mp

            How about Todd Gurley and AJ Green? They were explicitly paid for their names not performance. Clearly there is a market for that. If Jake Fromm were allowed t endorse Ford trucks tomorrow, do you think the Athens dealership would not want him to make a commercial? I think you’re getting confused between two separate issues – schools directly play paying the athletes and them controlling their marketability.

            Zion Williamson could make tons of money from shoe companies. He could do that at this point with or without Duke’s name. He cannot for another month. Pretty arbitrary.


            • Anonymous

              No, I am not confusing the two issues. I am saying that I am against making them professionals by having the schools pay them salaries. I am also saying that they should be able to profit off of their likeness like Olympic athletes.

              I want college football to be an amateur sport played by legitimate college students. I also want a functional farm system for the NFL and NBA so that functionally illiterate bozos aren’t pretending to be college students for three years. The NBA is somewhat trying with the G-League. The NFL makes zero effort because no one has forced their hand. I would absolutely love to see Mark Emmert come on TV and say “Roger Goodell called me today wanting us to make some rule changes. His complaint was that college are not preparing the types of QBs that NFL teams want. I said ‘Fuck you, I don’t care. Go train your own QBs'”.


    • Dawg1

      “Why do judges always try to be Solomon and split the baby. They always rule in a way to encourage more litigation. ”

      With due respect, this is a feature, not a bug IMO. This republic will go on hopefully for hundreds of years, and in these type of cases (i.e.for instance, not a contract case between 2 individuals that calls for a simple adjudication), ruling as narrow as possible based upon narrow matters before the court is really prudent. The system, for its flaws, does currently work for thousands of players, coaches, and millions of paying fans. Taking a slow change approach with narrow rulings is very wise and will lead to better outcomes in the future with each additional change not disrupting the entire enterprise to the point of destruction.

      Slow, even with bad situations, can still be better. Handicap or cut them off at the knees, a Shah or Assad enough and you get an Ayatollah or ISIS instead!


  4. This only shows that judge Wilken knows little to nothing about college athletics and why it is popular.


  5. Anonymous

    By all these same arguments, they should be paying high school football players as well. There are high school programs with budgets larger than many DII schools and play in stadiums larger and nicer than most FCS programs. Many coaches have six figure salaries. High school games are on TV; they are even on ESPN. IMG Academy operates on the exact same model as college football. High school players take all of the same risks. They can’t play in college without playing for free for their high school. Colleges exploit this development and coaching the same way they NFL exploits colleges.

    The hypocrisy isn’t that the players are not paid a salary. The hypocrisy is that we call functionally illiterate bozos that have no business attending these schools “student athletes”. Fixing the academic standards issue will not affect their bottom line either.

    The entire problem here is that people start with the assumption that the NCAA has a responsibility to serve as a minor league for the NFL and the NBA. They do not. Fuck the NFL. MLB, MLS, and the NHL operate just fine.


    • The “entire problem here”, as you phrase it, has nothing to do with minor league service.

      It’s that our society puts a high price on live sports entertainment.


      • The public has always done that.


        • Seriously, you don’t see any difference in the level of funds flowing through college sports now from before?


          • Of course I do. For one the value of a dollar is about half what is was then. Then with increased technogly making broadcasting live sports routinely a possiblity, coupled with increased number of fans of athletics in general it couldn’t help but go up. But the athletes playing today have no more claim on that success than the ones that came before them.


            • But the athletes playing today have no more claim on that success than the ones that came before them.

              All that boils down to is that they’ve never received a fair chance at revenues.

              Again, if they’re not worthy of more compensation, then what do you have to fear from a more open market?


              • “Again, if they’re not worthy of more compensation, then what do you have to fear from a more open market?”
                I know there are a lot of politicians that don’t deserve to be reelected that fool people into reelecting them. We’ve all suffered for that and most all of college sports will if this trend continues.


              • Ant123

                “All that boils down to is that they’ve never received a fair chance at revenues.” If that was true, which I do not believe it was then no one knew it because no one was complaining about it.


      • Anonymous

        Yes college football and basketball are the only live sports entertainment groups that have these problems. We don’t complain about the other sports as they do not use amateur college athletics as their sole feeder system. The NFL and the NBA have age restrictions in place that basically necessitate it.


  6. sniffer

    So, they’re saying, “It depends”. Isn’t that lawyer speak for “we haven’t billed enough hours yet”?


  7. “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…the thrill of victory…the agony of defeat”, when an individual steps on the surface of choice to participate in a sport they excel in..shit can happen. To tell me that a student athlete risks injury unbeknownst to them….no shit, there is inherent risk every minute of your day, didn’t Yante Maten risk his life on campus being involved in a bike/auto get together. Me thinks there is a possible compensation issue….isn’t that what the lsu hbbc said, “i made one hellova offer”..potentially not enough/to much compensation, i don’t know. From a blind eye, litigation sorta ends the way you thought it would, you get a little and give a little, for the most part…so for the ncaa to have lost this battle and to still say they won, turn the page to the next chapter. Kinda like “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.