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Student-Athletes Win Big Over NCAA in O’Bannon Case

In the O’Bannon case, the NCCA has finally taken a major hit in how it rules the lives of student-athletes on the pretext of amateurism and protecting student-athletes from being exploited by the same companies and individuals the NCAA and its Universities are making billions of dollars from.

To believe this legal battle is over would be a mistake, however, the ruling by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken opens the door for significant changes in how student-athletes and the revenues they bring in are treated in the future.

Director of Tulane Sports Law Program Gabe Feldman tweeted his comments and provided a link to a pdf copy of the ruling. USA Today also has a link to the ruling.

Some of the highlights paraphrased from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken’s 99 page ruling are:

The court found the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade and the NCAA was unable to justify this restraint.

The NCAA’s economic expert Dr. Daniel Rubinfeld’s own economics textbook specifically refers to the NCAA as a cartel.

The cost to the school to provide tuition, room and board, fees, and book expenses is often little or nothing.

The NCAA’s restrictions on student-athlete compensation are not the driving force behind consumer demand.

The NCAA’s current restrictions on student-athlete compensation do not promote competitive balance.

It is not clear why paying student-athletes would be any more problematic for campus relations than paying other students who provide services to the university.

Student-athlete compensation restrictions do not impact the number of games being played.

Restrictions on student-athlete compensation do not increase the number of opportunities for schools or student-athletes to participate in Division I sports.

The ruling describes the many ways the NCAA could modify its rules to achieve its stated goals and relax or reduce restrictions on student-athlete compensation.

The plaintiffs (student-athletes) won the case plus their costs from the NCAA.

Not everything went the way of the student-athlete. Through the 99 page ruling, the Judge did agree with some of the NCAA’s restrictions, however, this case goes a long way towards addressing many of the perceived inequities in the current system and should move the NCAA towards a system where student-athletes feel they are being treated more fairly. The Judge made it very clear the concerns of student-athletes could be better addressed by changing NCAA policies than through the courts.


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


(Don’t mistake anything written herein as attempting to provide a legal opinion on the case or the ruling)



2 thoughts on “Student-Athletes Win Big Over NCAA in O’Bannon Case

  1. Paul Brown

    “The cost to the school to provide tuition, room and board, fees, and book expenses is often little or nothing.” If this is the csae can somebody explain how come it costs so damn much money to go to college?

    1. Stephen BrotherstonStephen Brotherston Post author

      The report probably should have it costs the school “little to nothing” ADDITIONAL – adding a few athletes on scholarships to a school doesn’t really cost the school any more money than if they weren’t there. Generally true in many businesses, once your costs are covered.

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