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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Impossible to inevitable: NCAA makes deal to pay college athletes


Welcome to Winning Wednesday!!


Last week, there was a huge victory on an issue very close to my heart:  compensation for top college athletes, who generate billions of dollars for their schools, and don’t get paid one dime.


According to ESPN, “the NCAA and its five power conferences have agreed to allow schools to directly pay players for the first time…


The NCAA and its leagues are moving forward with a multibillion-dollar agreement to settle three pending federal antitrust cases. The NCAA will pay more than $2.7 billion in damages over 10 years to past and current athletes, sources told ESPN. Sources said the parties also have agreed to a revenue-sharing plan allowing each school to share up to roughly $20 million per year with its athletes.”   The NCAA statement said that “all of Division 1 made this possible.”


Of course, it will take some time to iron out all the details and issues still in dispute, and the thinking is students may start getting paid in fall 2025. 


The Dartmouth basketball players continue to pursue their union.  “With this settlement, the NCAA continues to do everything it can to avoid free market competition,” Chris Peck, President of the SEIU Local 560 in Hanover, New Hampshire, told the Associated Press. “[The settlement] only supports our case that the NCAA and Dartmouth continue to perpetrate a form of disguised employment.” 


The NCAA is continuing to fight the designation of student athletes as employees, and definitely doesn’t like the idea of collective bargaining. USC athletes are organizing in addition to Dartmouth.  We’ll see what happens.


The New York Times noted that “a [2019] California law that made it illegal to block college athletes from name, image and likeness, or N.I.L., deals paved the way for athletes to seek compensation, some of them receiving seven figures annually.”  They also quoted Prof. William Berry at the University of Mississippi, saying that the settlement would pay players around 22 percent of future revenue. Berry noted that was much lower than the shares paid to players in professional leagues like National Football League and the National Basketball Association.


Sportico also noted that  “None of this would have happened without Ed O’Bannon… Fifteen years ago, the former UCLA basketball star and NBA forward brought a case that would set in motion the evolutionary changes taking place today.” 

A friend had told O’Bannon he bought a video game called NCAA March Madness, published by Electronic Arts.  The game featured a player who looked just like O’Bannon. Turns out EA had paid the NCAA for ITS intellectual property…but not the players who made it all possible.  O’Bannon’s lawsuit ultimately led to the CA law on NIL.   The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward JUSTICE.

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