Judge Highlights Inconsistencies in NCAA Rules against Paying Student Athletes

The NCAA antitrust trial continues, as Division I college basketball and football players vie for compensation, arguing that the current NCAA provisions illegally restrict player wages.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken probed NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon on the association’s limits on student wages, pointing out apparent discrepancies between rules imposed on various conferences.

Judge Wilken highlighted a NCAA provision adopted in 2014 that allows five conferences to independently determine their financial aid rules, despite NCAA bylaws imposing cost-of-attendance limits. Visibly perplexed, the Judge told Lennon, “This seems to say on its face that the autonomy five can decide [financial aid awards]. You’re seeming to say it’s limited by another rule. I’m trying to find out which rule trumps the other.”

Lennon responded that that cost-of-attendance is the “controlling element of this,” and referenced the principle of amateurism. Lennon stated further that the rule was made to comply with the recent O’Bannon ruling. Judge Wilken, however, pressed on, stating that everyone has to comply with O’Bannon, and repeating that the rules are in apparent conflict. She inquired again to Lennon, “What is the point of this [rule]?” The question was not directly answered.

Additionally, during cross examination, Lennon conceded that, while coaches can receive bonuses of tens of thousands of dollars if their team meets certain GPA benchmarks, individual players are prohibited from receiving financial compensation for high GPAs.

The trial continues to press forward, with the NCAA’s expert witness, Bruce Isaacson, to testify next.

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