A federal judge ruled on Friday that the decades-old NCAA rules keeping college athletes from accepting payments are in violation of antitrust laws.
Judge Claudia Wilken of the United States District Court in Oakland, Calif., issued an injunction against the NCAA's rules, which currently prohibit student athletes from earning money in relation to the use of their names and images in commercial ventures that generate revenue for the university.
“After considering all of the testimony, documentary evidence, and arguments of counsel presented during and after trial, the court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools,” Judge Wilken wrote in the 99-page ruling.
In the highly anticipated ruling in the O'Bannon vs. NCAA case, Wilken took into consideration the gargantuan budgets that athletic programs have built in recent years.
“The high coaches’ salaries and rapidly increasing spending on training facilities at many schools suggest that these schools would, in fact, be able to afford to offer their student-athletes a limited share of the licensing revenue generated from their use of the student-athletes’ own names, images, and likenesses,” Wilken wrote.
However, the judge's ruling does not guarantee that players will, in fact, be paid and does not provide avenues for athletes receiving endorsement money. The ruling does, however, provide recruiters with bargaining chips for the best athletes.
The NCAA issued a statement from its Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy:
We disagree with the Court's decision that NCAA rules violate antitrust laws. We note that the Court's decision sets limits on compensation, but are reviewing the full decision and will provide further comment later. As evidenced by yesterday’s Board of Directors action, the NCAA is committed to fully supporting student-athletes.
Remy is referring to the vote on Thursday that gives the NCAA's five biggest conferences more autonomy to provide new benefits for athletes, that won't apply to smaller schools with less revenue. Friday's ruling is set to take effect in 2016.