Ed O'Bannon judge denies NCAA's women's sports argument
NCAA objected to ruling that it could not argue that providing money to lower-level sports is a reason to prohibit football and men's basketball players from being paid. NCAA still has three pending motions to delay or reshape June 9 trial.
A federal judge on Monday denied one of the NCAA’s attempts to redefine or delay the Ed O’Bannon trial over the use of college athletes’ names, images and likenesses.
The NCAA asked U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken to reconsider her decision that the NCAA could not use providing financial support to women's sports and non-revenue men's sports as a reason to prohibit football and men's basketball players from being paid. That argument will remain prohibited for use by the NCAA if the O’Bannon case goes to trial as scheduled on June 9. The NCAA has three more pending motions attempting to delay or reshape the trial.
The NCAA had argued that Wilken made a mistake by treating Division I football and men’s basketball recruits as the only consumers in a potentially unrestrained market that deprives top players of their true value. The NCAA pointed out that its amateurism rules impact all college athletes, not just those in the highest-profile sports.
Wilken wrote Monday that the O’Bannon plaintiffs’ evidence and arguments “make clear that they are challenging the NCAA’s restrictions on student-athlete pay because of the specific impact those restrictions have on the college education market for Division I football and basketball recruits. The possibility that the NCAA’s rules may also restrain trade in other markets or affect recruits in other sports does not serve to alter the scope of the relevant market in this case.”
Wilken added that “by restricting the benefits that schools may offer recruits in high-revenue sports, the challenged rules necessarily have a greater impact on certain recruits than others, even if the rules technically apply across all sports.”
The NCAA had submitted in the case declarations by university administrators, athletic directors and conference leaders contending that they understand Title IX to mean they must provide athletic opportunities in men’s and women’s sports as features of an integrated college educational offering rather than as different products.
“But these administrators’ understanding of Title IX has no bearing on whether Division I men’s football and basketball recruits are consumers in the same market as other college-bound students,” Wilken wrote Monday. “Furthermore, the declarations articulate a questionable understanding of Title IX -- one that the NCAA itself has not endorsed in this case. For all of these reasons, the declarations are not sufficient to support an inference that the relevant market includes more than just Division I men’s football and basketball players.”
In a written statement Monday, NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy disagreed with Wilken's decision to not reconsider her summary judgment order.
"It is core to the NCAA and its member institutions that schools offer a broad base of sports, for women and men, regardless of whether those sports generate more revenue than they cost to support," Remy said. "The NCAA will continue to fight against any rule that allows schools to pay men’s basketball and football players at the expense of providing college opportunities for hundreds of thousands of male and female student-athletes.”
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