Thursday, March 26, 2015

NCAA Claims To Put Education Ahead of Profit. Really?

Last week, NCAA lawyers went into court seeking to reverse the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s ruling in O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.  In that case, the district court had held that the NCAA member colleges illegally restrained trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act when they colluded among other things, to keep college athlete compensation below the full cost of college attendance. 

Among the NCAA’s many legal arguments in seeking reversal was their claim that college athletics is exempt from the Sherman Act because amateurism, according to the NCAA, is driven by economic motives and not commercialism.  Although previous court decisions from the Third and Sixth Circuit seem to side with the NCAA’s argument on that point, other circuits have long rejected this contention and analyzed NCAA conduct in labor markets under the traditional Sherman Act.

Nevertheless, even to the extent there exists a split in the circuits on this important issue, it seems extraordinarily disingenuous for the NCAA lawyers to even make the argument that it prioritizes education over economics when considering the economic realities of the ongoing NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  In the past ten days alone, the NCAA has pocketed upwards $1 Billion from media rights and other revenues related to this single tournament tournament.  And, not only are the athletes unpaid, they are also going uneducated based on the NCAA’s attempt to maximize their own television revenues through midweek tournament games.

Through the first week of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, athletes on many college basketball teams have already missed upwards of three class days.  While the NCAA elects to schedule midweek games in the early rounds to maximize its television revenues, the NCAA could easily recast the tournament with all teams playing back-t0-back games on Friday night and Saturday night much as all Ivy League teams do during the Ivy League’s regular season.

Making matters worse, the NCAA has once again scheduled its men’s college basketball championship game on a Monday night – requiring athletes on the two finalist teams not only to miss late-week classes, but also to miss Monday and Tuesday classes in that last round.  Indeed, while NCAA member schools make substantial money from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the athletes’ main “compensation” -- a minimum of at least six missed class days – places them substantially behind in the classroom on their way home.

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Mark, Don't you think the education/athletics balance varies greatly from school to school? The NCAA represents a diverse array of schools, many of which do prioritize education.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Mar 26, 2015 1:33:10 PM

The NCAA also moved to dismiss a suit against it and UNC-CH for the UNC-CH "paper classes" by claiming it has no obligation and does not monitor coursework.

Posted by: Justin | Mar 31, 2015 7:47:05 AM

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