OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - NCAA rules prohibiting student athletes from being paid for the use of their names, images and likeness "unreasonably restrain trade in the market for educational athletic opportunities for Division I colleges and universities," a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken enjoined the NCAA "from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences from offering their FBS [Football Bowl Subdivision] football or Division I basketball recruits a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images, and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid."
Led by former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon, 20 student athletes sued the governing body for college athletics in a 2009 class action for the right to a share in the television broadcast revenue for their names, images and likenesses. A two-week bench trial was held in June.
In a 99-page opinion on Friday, Wilken found that the class had shown an injury to competition "only in the college education market or the market for recruits' athletic services and licensing rights."
Wilken found that acting in concert through the NCAA and its conferences, FBS Football and Division 1 basketball schools hold all the power to fix the price of the educational and athletic opportunities they offer to recruits.
"They have chosen to exercise this power by forming an agreement to charge every recruit the same price for the bundle of educational and athletic opportunities that they offer: to wit, the recruit's athletic services along with the use of his name, image, and likeness while he is in school," Wilken wrote. "If any school seeks to lower this fixed price - by offering any recruit a cash rebate, deferred payment, or other form of direct compensation - that school may be subject to sanctions by the NCAA. This price-fixing agreement constitutes a restraint of trade."
Wilken added: "Indeed, the NCAA's own expert, Dr. [Daniel] Rubinfeld, acknowledged that the NCAA operates as a cartel that imposes a restraint on trade in this market."
Wilken, citing high salaries for coaches and extravagant training facilities, said that schools should be able to afford to pay athletes.
"The high coaches' salaries and rapidly increasing spending on training facilities at many schools suggest that these schools would, in fact, be able to afford to offer their student-athletes a limited share of the licensing revenue generated from their use of the student-athletes' own names, images, and likenesses," Wilken wrote.
Wilken's ruling shot down the NCAA's primary justifications for not paying college athletes: amateurism, competitive balance and the integration of athletics and academics.
"The historical record that the NCAA cites as evidence of its longstanding commitment to amateurism is unpersuasive. This record reveals that the NCAA has revised its rules governing student-athlete compensation numerous times over the years, sometimes in significant and contradictory ways. Rather than evincing the association's adherence to a set of core principles, this history documents how malleable the NCAA's definition of amateurism has been since its founding," Wilken wrote.
She rejected the NCAA's argument that fans of college football and men's basketball watch or attend games because they know the players aren't paid, and will stop watching if they are, noting NCAA President Mark Emmert testified that the popularity of college sports are driven by school or regional loyalty.