During the last few months, the movement to pay college athletes has gained more traction. In August 2014, a federal judge ruled that college basketball and football players should earn a share of the licensing revenues due to the use of their name, image, and likeness. The NCAA promptly appealed the ruling. According to the court, the athlete can gain access to the funds when they have graduated from college or left college. The funds should be placed in a trust. The minimum amount that schools should pay the athletes is $5,000 annually. The verdict is commonly referred to as ‘O’Bannon’ case. O’Bannon is a former UCLA hoops who filed a lawsuit after realizing that his image was being used by in an NCAA-branded video game. More than 20 other athletes joined the lawsuit; include five athletes who were active NCAA football players. The verdict came just a few days after the NCAA ruled that 65 schools in the Big 5 power conference should have the autonomy to set their own rules. The schools were ready to offer the athletes a certain amount of money to cover their cost of attending college. The amount of money that the colleges were willing to pay ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 above the value of the athletic scholarships they offered (Strauss para 2).
In addition, in March 2014, a regional direct of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) claimed that it was possible for football players from Northwestern University (NU) to unionize. This is due to the fact that the students acted as employees of the university. However, Northwestern University has since appealed the decision. The national office of the NLRB has not yet made the final ruling on the appeal. In addition, many papers claim athletes should be paid.
The lawyer who helped NFL and NBA players become free agents is striving to create an open market for college athletes. In March 2014, Jeffrey Kessler filed an anti-trust lawsuit that has the potential of altering college sports the way we know it. This is significantly different from the O’Banon case, which was limited to intellectual property rights. Kessler claims that football and basketball players generate huge revenue from the sports. Therefore, it is wrong for the schools to have laws that prohibit them from compensating the athletes. However, the lawsuit will not go to trial until at least the fall of 2015. If Kessler wins, the court may force NCAA to implement a real pay-for-play system, which is has feared for a long time. Paying the football and basketball players raises the question as to whether it should also pay other players. It addition, it raises the question of whether there are limits of payment the players should receive. Despite the fact that the judge of the O’Bannon case did not torpedo the traditional college sports model, the judge of the case seems to have made an invitation to another judge to do so (Strauss para 4).
The opinion of the judge of the O’Bannon case, Claudia Wilken, condemns the practices of NCAA. It leads to the removal of some of the most popular justifications that limit the compensation of college athletes to simply the value of their scholarships. The judge claims that the price fixing agreement among schools is detrimental to the welfare of the players. The judge also claims that it is not clear why colleges find it difficult to pay student-athletes yet they pay other students who are part of the student government.
It is a fact that college sports are not simply amateur. Different conferences have their own television networks. To increase their revenues, students switched to conferences that offered more money. In addition, the salary of coaches of college sports has increased significantly. Currently, the average salary of coaches of in the Football Bowl Division, which is the top level of college football colleges, is approximately $1.7 million annually. Over the past seven year, there has been a significant increased in the salary of the coaches, which has made them reach the current level. Therefore, parties that support paying college athletes claim that athletes should also get their share of the money. As such, Kessler picked the right time to file a lawsuit against NCAA. There has been a significant recognition among fans, public, and schools that the current system treats college athletes unfairly. Therefore, there should be a fundamental change to the system.
Wilkens just fell short of making athletes have the right to receive millions of dollars from schools. The ruling ensured that college athletes could earn money from the trust fund created by the revenues the sports receives. The NCAA has the right to limit the amount of money that the athletes receive. However, if the ruling of the court is upheld, it would make athletes of high performing schools in athletes receive a share of the hundreds of millions that the schools receive for the first time in the history of NCAA.
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