College sports is completely changing before the eyes of sports fans throughout the country. Last week, the NCAA Division I board of directors approved a governance model to give the Power 5 conferences (the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12, and the ACC) autonomy. This is the first step in a process that could pave the way for FBS athletes to make "cost-of-attendance money," among other reforms. Days after that decision by the NCAA, federal judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the NCAA can't stop college football and basketball players from selling the rights to their names and likenesses, opening the way to athletes to get payouts once their college careers are over. The amount of legal action and terminology going on between the NCAA and former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds can make even the most intelligent sports fan confused about what it all means for the future of college sports. Here is an important breakdown of what the ruling against the NCAA means with assistance from ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson and Sports Illustrated journalist Andy Staples:
-The college athletes and players succeeded in being able to collect money for their abilities but less money than they originally wanted. The payment authorized by Judge Wilken in the formal injunction is capped at $5,000 per athlete per year of competition. This would essentially limit the maximum for a college athlete to getting a deferred compensation of $25,000 over a five-year career. This is far less than O'Bannon and the NCAA athletes were pursuing, which was estimated to be potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for each athlete over of the course of their respective careers.
- Judge Claudia Wilken didn't completely strip the NCAA of its ability to limit athletes in terms of their likenesses. In other words, she didn't ban the NCAA from creating any rules that ban athletes from selling their name, image and likeness rights individually. This means that the NCAA and the universities retain some power over athletes with likenesses and images.
-The NCAA's claim about amateurism in terms of college athletes has been destroyed. Although a significant part of the sports public chuckled at the notion of college sports as a multi-billion dollar business as amateurism, the NCAA has strongly defended that notion. Judge Wilken rejected the NCAA's assertion that its restraints on payments to college athletes were justified as part of a commitment to amateurism.
Obviously, this is far from over from both the NCAA's and college athletes' standpoint. But considerable change has occurred and the NCAA must prepare to battle more than the O'Bannon case. The future of college sports is very cloudy and it is unclear when the weather will clear up anytime soon.