U.S. judge rules against NCAA, says athletes can be paid

Fri Aug 8, 2014 9:12pm EDT
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By Dan Levine and Jonathan Stempel

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Collegiate Athletic Association must allow universities to offer student athletes a limited share of revenue, a U.S. judge ruled on Friday, a decision that cuts to the heart of the NCAA's mission to enforce amateurism in college sports.

More than 20 current and former athletes filed an antitrust class action against the NCAA, saying players should share in profits of college athletics, a lucrative business in which universities reap billions of dollars from football and basketball.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, on Friday issued an injunction to allow students to recover some revenue generated from use of their names, images and likenesses. Wilken did not put the injunction on hold pending appeal, but said it will not take effect until the start of the next recruiting cycle.

"I think we'll look back at this five years from now as the day that college sports began to change. That's how important it is," said Roger Abrams, a sports law professor at Northeastern University.

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said "we disagree" with the court's ruling allowing athletes to share in revenue.

"We note that the Court's decision sets limits on compensation," Remy said, adding that "the NCAA is committed to fully supporting student-athletes."

The ruling adds to the mounting legal, political and public pressure for colleges to share the revenue athletic programs generate and give student athletes better benefits. In April, football players at Northwestern University became the first U.S. student athletes to vote on whether to unionize.

The majority of college athletes do not go on to play professionally. Critics say the NCAA's current scholarship policy short-changes athletes who risk injury and devote many hours to practice sessions, travel and competition.   Continued...

President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Mark Emmert speaks during a news conference at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis July 23, 2012.  REUTERS/Brent Smith