Both the NCAA and Student-Athletes Plan to Appeal Ruling on NCAA Pay Rules

On Friday, April 5, 2019, the plaintiffs from the controversial NCAA antitrust suit filed a notice of cross-appeal in California federal court. The student-athletes seek a broader ruling than that of the lower court, which held that the NCAA’s player pay restrictions violate antitrust laws, seeking a holding that expands pay beyond education-expenses alone. The athletes’ cross-appeal follows defendant NCAA’s filing their own notice of appeal, two weeks earlier. The organization has criticized the district court’s ruling, accusing the courts of “micromanaging” its rules, and instead argues that the NCAA and its member schools can best regulate their rules.

The dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes reached a tepid conclusion in March of 2018, with Judge Wilken’s “split the baby” approach in her ruling. As we have previously reported, the decision was a partial victory for student-athletes: student athletes secured additional compensation from the NCAA, with not only scholarships to complete undergraduate or graduate degrees, but also opening the possibility of cash, or cash-equivalent, awards based on academics or graduation, under some constraints. Additionally, because Judge Wilken determined that her decision constituted a judgment in favor of the student athletes, the NCAA was tasked with the plaintiffs’ legal costs — a staggering $45 million.

On the other hand, Judge Wilken’s ruling was also a partial victory for the NCAA: the ruling prevents student athletes from receiving unlimited benefits and, arguably more importantly, allows the organization to adopt a definition for compensation and benefits that are “related to education.” Judge Wilken explained that the NCAA can limit “academic or graduation awards of incentives, provided in cash or cash-equivalent” but that limit cannot be “less than the maximum amount of compensation that an individual could receive in an academic school year in participation, championship, or other special achievement awards (combined).”

This part of the ruling is specifically what the student-athletes now appeal. With both parties continuing the fight, it will be up to the courts to determine if the ruling shall stand.

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