Update: Alston v. NCAA: Amateurism on Trial for Violating Anti-Trust Law

Update: Alston v. NCAA: Amateurism on Trial for Violating Anti-Trust Law

The NCAA will stop at nothing to preserve its beloved “amateurism.”  This article is an update to the initial details of the Alston v. NCAA case detailed on the Unafraid Show. The NCAA demonstrated this last week with the parade of witnesses they called to defend their bedrock principle of “amateurism” in the Alston v. NCAA trial.  In Alston, former college athletes sued the NCAA to have the cap limiting athletic scholarships to cost-of-attendance removed.  The Plaintiffs argue that the cap is a violation of federal antitrust laws.  Each witness offered justifications in support of the NCAA’s assertion that the cap is necessary to protect “amateurism” and to help “student-athletes” become apart of the greater campus community.

There was a recurring theme amongst the NCAA’s witnesses.  Almost every witness argued that removing the cap would have a detrimental effect on college athletics.  However, many of the witnesses failed to offer any hard evidence of that assertion.  They relied on their opinions, which are not sufficient in this antitrust case.  The issue of whether removing the cap would have a detrimental effect on college athletics is the main issue in the case. Therefore, arguments for and against must be supported by expert testimony and/or quantitative data.

NCAA Witnesses in Support of “Amateurism”

The NCAA called several witnesses who offered complex testimony that addressed a variety of issues.  The following are highlights from a few of the testimonies.

Rebecca Blank’s Testimony

First, the NCAA called Rebecca Blank, the Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (Wisconsin).  Her testimony was fascinating as it will likely do more harm than good to the NCAA.  While Blank testified that “student-athletes” should not be paid, she also criticized how much coaches are paid.   She stated that it was “unfortunate” that the cap on coaches salaries’ was removed and asserted that the high salaries make the programs look bad.  This assertion made Blank appear to not fully support the NCAA’s and Power 5 conferences’ model.

Relatedly, Blank testified that if “student-athletes” were paid, Wisconsin would reconsider its participation in college athletics. Wisconsin issued a statement the very next day that completely undermined Blank’s testimony. The statement made it clear that Wisconsin has no plans to stop offering college athletics.  Blank’s testimony and Wisconsin’s response makes the NCAA and the Power 5 conferences look disjointed. Furthermore, Blank failed to offer any quantitative evidence to support her assertion that loosening the cap would negatively affect college athletics.

Michael Aresco’s and Eugene Smith’s Testimonies

Similarly, American Athletic Commissioner Michael Aresco testified that the rules capping scholarships are necessary to help smaller conferences like his compete.  He argued that the cap ensures that the “big” schools cannot recruit all of the talents.  This argument is flawed.  Even with the cap, it is generally the same teams in the football bowl games, in the college football playoffs, and in the later rounds of the March Madness Tournament. While Aresco’s testimony is more helpful than Blank’s, he too failed to offer any quantitative evidence in support of his claim that loosening the cap would negatively affect college athletics.

Accordingly, the athletic director at Ohio State University Eugene Smith testified.  His testimony was generally helpful to the NCAA.  He pointed out that not all college athletes will play professionally and that they need to be prepared for that reality.  Smith acknowledged if college athletes were paid there would still be fans, although there may be less.   He also asserted that donors might be less inclined to donate.

What is Next in Alston

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, each party presented the rest of their witnesses.  The trial ended on September 25.  Each party will submit a written closing argument to the judge.  The judge will then take some time to review and then issue a ruling.  After the ruling is issued the parties will have the option to appeal to the federal appeals court in the 9th circuit.  This case could possibly reach the United States Supreme Court.  Alston v. NCAA is extremely significant to college athletics.  If the plaintiffs succeed, it could completely change the world of college athletics.

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