By Mia Colloredo-Mansfeld
The NCAA has always prided itself on being an amateur league, meaning, among other guidelines, that the athletes are not paid. However, this is all about to change, beginning July 1, 2016, the NCAA must pay all Division I men’s basketball players and football players in the top ten conferences whose image, name or likeness it uses in video games, TV broadcasting or other promotional material.
Ed O’Bannon, a former NCAA basketball player for UCLA, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA in 2009 after seeing his image used in a video game without his consent. Judge Claudia Wilken of the United States District Court in Oakland, California made the decision in favor of O’Bannon on Aug. 8, 2014. The result means that universities are required to provide these athletes with trust funds they can use after graduating. This allows the players access to some of the revenue that their roles as athletes in the NCAA created.
The NCAA can still limit the amount of money the players receive, prevent athletes from signing contracts for endorsements and regulate the number of scholarships given to basketball and football players. Despite these restrictions, Judge Wilken mandated that the universities pay the athletes whose images or names are used at least $5,000 per year.
This court ruling has the potential to significantly alter the recruiting process for high school athletes trying to play Division I basketball or football in college. It is predicted that many universities with major sports programs, such as the schools in the “Big 5,” or top five athletic conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and PAC 12), will enter into bidding races in order to recruit the top athletes because the schools can offer the new recruits more money than before. Even so, universities are not allowed to pay the athlete his share of revenue while he is still eligible to play in the NCAA, though coaches can still offer scholarships and enough money to cover the athlete’s attendance at the university.
Not only can universities offer more money to recruits by using their image promotionally, but the O’Bannon case has opened up the possibility for more freedom in communication with agents. This could be another draw for recruits, as they could talk to and work with agents more openly with less restriction from the NCAA and the school they play for.
“I think [paying athletes] makes sense because the NCAA profits off the college players…However it is turning the amateur aspect of sports, which means the love of the game, into a professional style event,” said Kevin Gilland, a sophomore at East.
The NCAA argued that the paying of college athletes and the fact that they could no longer be called amateur athletes would decrease the interest in college sports and cause a decline in revenue for the schools. However, many critics disagreed, adding that at big football schools, the top paid employee is often the head football coach. For example, the head coach at Ohio State University, a member of the Big Ten conference, was paid $2.2 million plus bonuses last year.
“College athletes should be allowed to make money because, with the amount of time and effort they put into their sport, it is basically their job, even though they are not on the professional level yet,” agrees junior Ali Cyr-Scully.
Though the decision may not cause a decrease in the number of college sports fans, it could widen the gap between the level of sports at different universities because of the ability of universities with big Division I programs to offer more money to recruits. However, the NCAA has implied it is going to appeal the O’Bannon decision in hopes of getting it overturned.