College Sports Facing New Perils: Antitrust Lawsuit Targets TV Revenue Sharing


College Sports Facing New Perils: Antitrust Lawsuit Targets TV Revenue Sharing

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In a recent gathering attended by university presidents in Manhattan, Arizona State President Michael Crowe was prompted to consider a future scenario where student-athletes in Sun Devils football and basketball receive a share of the vast media rights revenues their sports generate.

Crowe voiced his opposition to this idea, stating that it doesn’t align with the present gender-balanced college sports framework in the United States. Nevertheless, the NCAA and major college sports conferences are confronting another antitrust lawsuit that could potentially lead to athletes being compensated or receiving revenue-sharing arrangements akin to professional sports.

The “House vs. the NCAA” class-action lawsuit is currently being heard in the Northern District of California by Judge Claudia Wilken, who had previously ruled in favor of college athletes profiting from their fame and schools directing more money to them. In 2021, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the NCAA, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh strongly criticizing the existing model.

Two years later, college sports faces the risk of its future being determined by external factors. NCAA President Charlie Baker is set to testify before a Senate committee, the 10th hearing on college sports since 2020.

Issues before the National Labor Relations Board, a unionization movement by Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team, and another lawsuit in Pennsylvania could potentially grant employee status to college athletes. The California case, brought by Arizona State swimmer Grant House, could cost the NCAA and major conferences over $4 billion in damages.

If the NCAA loses, it could necessitate professional-sports style revenue sharing from multibillion-dollar TV deals for college football and March Madness basketball. The plaintiffs seek to strike down prohibitions on athletes profiting from their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

However, concerns arise about the impact on other sports programs that don’t have the same level of funding. Even at wealthy Power Five programs, football and basketball revenue supports numerous other athletes. There are concerns about the potential impact on Title IX compliance.

While college sports leaders have sought government involvement in the form of an NIL bill that pre-empts state laws and avoids labeling athletes as school employees, the NCAA is no longer solely relying on Congress to address NIL. They are working on their own rules, which the House lawsuit seeks to challenge. A trial is expected in the fall of 2024.

Crowe expressed a desire to enhance athletic scholarships, offering more funds for stipends and long-term health-care coverage. However, some within college sports believe this won’t be sufficient.

Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts emphasized the need for student-athletes to share in the revenue they help generate, acknowledging the changing landscape of college sports.


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