Monday, August 11, 2014

Will antitrust ruling bust up NCAA?

Two big news items about the NCAA last week.  First, it approved new rules for the ACC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pac 10 and SEC conferences that will allow them more autonomy (ESPN report here). The most likely consequence is that athletes at these schools will be allowed to receive "cost-of-attendance" stipends of $2-5k per player, a modest increase over tuition, room and board.

But the big news came from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken who found the NCAA guilty of antitrust restaint-of-trade violations (CBS Sports report here).  The NCAA and its member schools profit from the use of athletes names and images.  For instance last year Texas A&M sold truckloads of football jerseys with Johnny Manziel's name and number and received millions for televising his image. But Johnny received zero revenue from this activity.

This will no doubt change as a consequence of the antitrust ruling, assuming it stands upon appeal.  Colleges will still be bound, for a while, by whatever compensation rules their conferences come up with.  But let's just suppose a school like Alabama in football or Kentucky in basketball decides to start paying something close to market prices to attract student-athletes.  This will force a significant redistribution of income and resources.  Currently the TV dollars support huge athletic department budgets.  When students start getting a larger share, expect big changes.  Coaching and support staffs will shrink; some non-revenue sports will vanish (in a gender neutral way of course, thanks to Title IX).

Other things to expect:

  • Left to a free market, five-star recruits will get nicer packages than three-stars.  
  • All recruits will get the same performance bonuses that we see in the pros.  Future Johnny Footballs will be paid by the touchdown.  And maybe dinged in the wallet for each interception.  
  • Another judge will allow students to transfer to another school without sitting out a year; the current rule is no doubt another restraint of trade.  
  • Interesting question: will athletes vote for unions to redistribute the loot from the Anthony Davises and Jabari Parkers to the average players and the benchwarmers?  

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