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NCAA Outlines Amateurism Justifications in Court Filing

Steve Berkowitz of USA Today:

Thursday night, the NCAA argued there are five justifications for the compensation limits — and it unloaded 87 exhibits to back those justifications. Among the exhibits are new statements from nine college presidents or chancellors, six conference commissioners and six athletics directors, as well as excerpts from recently taken depositions of five current college athletes who became named plaintiffs in the case.

The NCAA’s five justifications are:

  1. Amateurism is a core part of the product of “college athletics”.
  2. Amateurism is necessary for competitive balance.
  3. Amateurism is necessary for the integration of academics and athletics.
  4. Non-revenue sports depend on amateurism.
  5. Amateurism supports “increased output” of teams, roster sports, participation opportunities, and support services.

The judge in the O’Bannon case already rejected the idea that the Board of Regents case would control her decision, so that means the first and third justifications are not likely to help the NCAA that much. Whether non-revenue sports matter would seem to depend on market definition (are we talking about all college sports or just football and basketball?), and so is of less use to the NCAA.

The second and fifth justifications seem like the best in an antitrust case. They are more solid arguments that amateurism is procompetitive. That is, amateurism results in not just more lacrosse teams and tennis scholarships but also more football and basketball opportunities. And the quality of those opportunities, across the board, is higher as a result of amateurism. That—the NCAA would argue—is good for the consumer, whether that consumer is a fan who wants to watch a game or an athlete who wants to play college football or basketball.

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