Video: Will NCAA athletes win a share of TV revenue?

posted at 1:51 pm on January 30, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

This case started off as a lawsuit from former NCAA athletes looking for a piece of revenues from replays of old games, whether as archival film or shown in their entirety, as in ESPN Classics.  A ruling in court yesterday may have broadened the lawsuit to include all TV revenue for all athletes, former and current — and could dramatically impact the financial model for collegiate sports:

In dismissing a motion by the NCAA to prevent football and men’s basketball players from legally pursuing a cut of live broadcast revenues, a federal court judge Tuesday raised the stakes for the governing body of college sports as it defends its economic model.

Judge Claudia Wilken issued her ruling Tuesday, rejecting the NCAA’s motion that players in the antitrust suit led by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon should be precluded from advancing their lawsuit on procedural grounds.

The NCAA had objected to the players amending their lawsuit last year to claim a share of all television game revenues, not just those from rebroadcasts. …

The O’Bannon suit attacks that model through the means of class-action, the legal question now before Wilken. Former college stars such as Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson have joined O’Bannon on behalf of all Division I players in football and men’s basketball, asking Wilken to declare that they are similarly situated and to certify the class.

Wilken on Tuesday set the hearing on that motion for June 20 and ordered the NCAA to make its arguments against class certification on the merits rather than procedural objections such as the one she just rejected. The NCAA was joined in that motion by its partner, Collegiate Licensing Company.

This opens an old debate on whether the NCAA’s massive television revenues exploit student athletes.  It’s certainly a good question for rebroadcasts, where the “students” are no longer restricted to amateur status, but end up providing revenues for the NCAA long after the benefit of scholarships have ended.  It’s a little difficult to justify a lack of revenue sharing in that relatively new area of NCAA commerce, if even in a token manner by contributing to health care or some other service that could be structured for former college athletes.

But the big enchilada here is the question of compensating current student athletes.  The NCAA has long argued that the athletes who provide the entertainment that generates the revenue receive compensation through lucrative scholarships (at least in most cases), trading their efforts for a free education and potential for a degree that will bring them better earnings as adults.  In sports such as football, basketball, and (to a lesser extent) baseball, one could also argue that the opportunity to play raises the athlete’s value in pro-sports drafts, which then deliver big paydays.  Of course, only a small percentage actually make it that far.

It’s not an easy question.  One could apply the same principle to college theater, which brings in revenue while the cast has to settle for school credit — but the revenues aren’t in the billions of dollars each year for 538 college productions of Our Town or You Can’t Take It With You, either.  There is a good argument to be made about exploitation in that context, and the NCAA may find it very difficult to argue that they have no real obligation to share the revenue they make with the people who make it possible.  And if they lose that argument, that could make it difficult for many NCAA schools to maintain their current business model, and might make big-time college sports return to their original mission: to build character, rather than bank accounts.

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Someone check with the GOD/KING to see what he says about this issue.

Every one just wait and then we’ll know what to do.

PappyD61 on January 30, 2013 at 1:59 PM

27 comments or bust!

Bishop on January 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM

I think its only fair…..beyond the TV revenue the athletes should also sue their former schools and conferences for their share of the cash raked in from game gate receipts and selling team apparel too.

hawkeye54 on January 30, 2013 at 2:07 PM

They broadcast high school games down here in Texas in some markets.

are we going to give high-schoolers revenue sharing?

catmman on January 30, 2013 at 2:08 PM

The NCAA’s treatment of athletes would be considered oppressive if it was a normal employer. Not only do they refuse to share the revenue with those who are making them rich they also block outside sources of income. They won’t even allow them to sell their autographs.

agmartin on January 30, 2013 at 2:09 PM

I hope all pro athletes get a large share of TV revenues. That way the whole enterprise will become too expensive to undertake and maybe sports will begin to leave my TV screen. That would be great.

Warner Todd Huston on January 30, 2013 at 2:16 PM

In the early/mid 80s the SWC was being stung by allegations of cheating everywhere. If I remember a sportswriter in Dallas that came from a school in the ACC had started stories on just about every college after the SMU deal broke open. Just about every team in the conference save maybe two were on some kind of probation .

Poor ‘ol Bill Yeoman at UH was accused of having a $50 cash drawer as his big crime while the richer schools were providing BMWs and housing, etc. He made the case that these kid came from fairly modest backgrounds and their families had no resources to provide them spending money and NCAA rules did not allw them to collect endorsements or work for the schools for compensation.

I made the suggestion to pay the student athletes off of some of the revenues the teams generated. My letter to the school paper was so heavily edited I barely recognized it. Lesson? them that buy ink by the barrel control the printed cnversation.

DanMan on January 30, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Former NCAA athletes don’t have ANY valid claim to revenue from NCAA sports video footage, PERIOD.

Doesn’t matter how old or recent the footage in question is.
.
I can just see all of the past NCAA coaches rolling over and over and over again, in their graves because of this.

I can even picture some of them “rising from the dead”, and kicking their former players in the (expletive), for this.

listens2glenn on January 30, 2013 at 2:18 PM

TV money going to the school allows them to pay for all the sports scholarships. The athletes benefit from not having to pay for school.

If the athletes take money from the school tv revenue then less money will be available for scholarships. Less money means the students will have to pay more to go to school.

So either go to school for free or get a piece of the tv money, but not both.

SpudmanWP on January 30, 2013 at 2:18 PM

If the players get paid, there should be no more athletic scholarships. If they are getting paid, they should pay their way.

Jabberwock on January 30, 2013 at 2:19 PM

SpudmanWP on January 30, 2013 at 2:18 PM

You’re not only better, but faster.

Jabberwock on January 30, 2013 at 2:22 PM

providing revenues for the NCAA long after the benefit of scholarships have ended

So you mean, when the athletes are dead? Because hopefully you’ll receive the benefit of the scholarship for your entire life.

hawksruleva on January 30, 2013 at 2:37 PM

A legal victory would make NCAA athletics model unworkable because of Title IX. A women’s rower would have to receive as much as your Heisman trophy winner. That’ll last long.

blammm on January 30, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Besides money for scholorships, TV revenues also pay for other aspects of the sports program.

Are the athleets willing to pay for their uniforms, new stadiums, airfare to the games, etc.

TV revenue also allows schools to fund other, non revenue generating programs (equipment, staff, and scholorships).

Double dipping means that school programs will suffer.

SpudmanWP on January 30, 2013 at 2:47 PM

……and maybe sports will begin to leave my TV screen. That would be great.

Warner Todd Huston on January 30, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Man, I feel your pain. Your TV doesn’t even have a tuner so you can change channels?
Now THAT’S a hardship.

kit dinker on January 30, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Not only do they refuse to share the revenue with those who are making them rich they also block outside sources of income.

agmartin on January 30, 2013 at 2:09 PM

They don’t block outside sources of income:

Football players can play in the CFL.
Hockey players can play in the juniors.
Baseball players can play in the minor leagues.
Basketball players can play in the NBDL or Europe.

blammm on January 30, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Maybe they should form a union….

Amateur athletics should not be a multi-billion dollar industry. Universities should stick to education and leave running sports leagues to the professionals.

rw on January 30, 2013 at 2:52 PM

If the NCAA loses this, will grad students start making money from patents based upon their research?

TexasDan on January 30, 2013 at 3:13 PM

I see beady-eyed Title IX administrators just gleeful over the prospect of only some student athletes being compensated.

TexasDan on January 30, 2013 at 3:15 PM

There are plenty of student athletes who are walk-ons, or who do not have scholarships. This TV money helps pay coaches 6-7 figure salaries which in my opinion is outrageous.

booger71 on January 30, 2013 at 3:27 PM

I see they failed if any of these athletes had paid scholarships and were already paid for their services. Do athlete who are a bust in college on a scholarship have to pay it back? No so to claim they are due anything is ridiculous and would kill college sports as we know it.

JeffinSac on January 30, 2013 at 3:29 PM

If athletes can be compensated for monies the college receives as a result of their activities at the college, what is to stop colleges from returning the favor with ALL students. WooHoo! Colleges get paid finder’s fees for every student who gets a job. Ever! If you list your school on your resume, you have to pay a finder’s fee when you get a job. And the colleges are fighting this ruling because…???? I’m thinking a $Billion is pocket change on this one.

This one has doofus written all over it. Just because you WANT to get paid doesn’t mean you SHOULD get paid.

Bear on January 30, 2013 at 3:31 PM

One could apply the same principle to college theater, which brings in revenue while the cast has to settle for school credit — but the revenues aren’t in the billions of dollars each year for 538 college productions of Our Town or You Can’t Take It With You, either.

And if a college wanted to pay the students in its drama club for the plays they act in, I don’t think anyone would prohibit them from doing so. And, alternatively, if a student had the talent to go off campus and do some acting for pay on Broadway or in Hollywood, they could do so and still come back and act in college theater, because they wouldn’t be required to maintain “amateur” status.

J.S.K. on January 30, 2013 at 3:40 PM

There is some merit here. Colleges have burned players out for the coaches and admins incomes — and all the player gets is Physical Education degree scholarship. How many players can you name that have blown their knees out, had major concussions, screwed up their pitching arm for the alma mater ?? Having your name in the record book is not worth anything when you have to spend the rest of your life in pain.

KenInIL on January 30, 2013 at 3:49 PM

And the SEC would only get better. At football.
The ACC in hoops.

Jabberwock on January 30, 2013 at 3:51 PM

KenInIL on January 30, 2013 at 3:49 PM

Paying them for three/four years on campus will not stop this.
They get hurt all the same.

Jabberwock on January 30, 2013 at 3:53 PM

They broadcast high school games down here in Texas in some markets.

are we going to give high-schoolers revenue sharing?

catmman on January 30, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Class-action lawyers are doubtless drafting the complaint at this very moment . . .

Gene Hunt on January 30, 2013 at 4:34 PM

This would essentially be the end of small school university athletics.

But hey, those people who got their free education, free room and board, free tutors, free gear…well they have to get SOMETHING for all that hard time spent playing.

WhaleBellied on January 30, 2013 at 4:36 PM

This will just result in fewer athletic opportunities – for both men and women – and it will also do nothing for the athletes who bring in the money because of them – the few stars. And they are already handsomely compensated with cars, homes for their family and walking around money.

Zomcon JEM on January 30, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Also known as Killing the golden Goose and/or Biting the Hand that Feeds You.

WhaleBellied on January 30, 2013 at 4:50 PM

The fact that you have an image from The Game as the thumbnail on the homepage just made my day.

O-H!!!

Hootie on January 30, 2013 at 5:22 PM

College athletes do NOT get to go to school for free. The vast majority of these ‘students’ are taking joke classes that provide absolutely no education (movement science!).

Most of these are C students who work a full-time job in a school (athletics) competing with straight-A students who have nothing to do but take classes. There is no way any but the very brightest college athletes could get anything out of their free ‘college education.’

Colleges use the massive revenues to fund the 7-figure salaries of coaches, athletic directors, assistants, etc. The whole thing is a scam. And colleges have conspired with the pro leagues to prevent young athletes from going directly to the pro leagues.

Clark1 on January 30, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Clark1 on January 30, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Hmmm…I take it you have had family in college athletics then?
I wonder exactly how familiar you are with the NCAA revenues distribution and how much money is involved including gate revenues and merchandising. As for joke classes and scholarships, got the stats for that please? And yes, coaches and athletic directors are probably over-paid but that is up to the schools not the NCAA, and most of that million dollar income isn’t from the school but from tv, endorsements, etc. There is a lot more to the college athletics rogram than what you stated. Perhaps you should mention the lower division schools that benefit from the revenues of the Divivion 1 schools.
And personally I don’t like to see athletes just out of high school turn pro, especially in football.

Deanna on January 30, 2013 at 6:54 PM

The best way to do it in my opinion is to provide a stipend up to $2000 a semester (you can base it on video game rights in order to avoid Title IX), compensating athletes for their jersey sales (we all know who #15 was for the University of Florida even if the jersey did not say Tebow on the back), as well as enacting an Olympic model which would allow athletes to seek out endorsements (separate from the school) once they sign letters of intent.

ripcord on January 30, 2013 at 6:59 PM

And yes, coaches and athletic directors are probably over-paid but that is up to the schools not the NCAA, and most of that million dollar income isn’t from the school but from tv, endorsements, etc. There is a lot more to the college athletics rogram than what you stated. Perhaps you should mention the lower division schools that benefit from the revenues of the Divivion 1 schools.

The NCAA is a functioning body of all the Division 1 schools. Even when Emmert tries to create sweeping changes he has been rebuffed by the school presidents. So not much is actually up to the NCAA if the University presidents disagree on the course of action. Some of these kids are not even 18 when they sign their national letters of intent. How is it then allowable to have the NCAA have a lifetime contract on the kids likeness and etc. without having to compensate the athlete.

ripcord on January 30, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Don’t althletes that recieve scholarships sign some sort of LOI or contract agreement?

If you don’t want to do that deal, go play in the minor leagues.

MichaelGabriel on January 30, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Don’t althletes that recieve scholarships sign some sort of LOI or contract agreement?

If you don’t want to do that deal, go play in the minor leagues.

MichaelGabriel on January 30, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Yes they have to sign a 4 year contract while the agreement is only annual for the universities. So if a new recruit wants in, the coach can end your scholarship without penalty. Also if you wish to play somewhere else you must sit out a year which is a penalty coaches, athletic directors, and school presidents are not held to.

ripcord on January 30, 2013 at 10:00 PM

A Texas A&M study found that QB Johnny Manziel and the football team (but mostly Manziel imo) generated more than $37 million for the the University. Yet besides their scholarships which are nowhere close to these figures the players receive no compensation.

http://tamutimes.tamu.edu/2013/01/18/study-end-of-football-season-produced-37-million-in-media-exposure-for-texas-am/

ripcord on January 30, 2013 at 10:05 PM