NCAA Defends System Against Antitrust Case

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – As the antitrust trial over profits from college sports reached its midpoint Wednesday, NCAA attorneys claimed that student-athletes would neglect their studies if they are paid for televised games, and that the money they exact will force universities to cut funding for less profitable sports.
     Rather than raise tuition, which University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said would be “unacceptable,” the college would take the money from the budgets for other sports.
     “We would look to cutting programs within athletics to make up for that shortfall, as objectionable and distasteful as that might be,” Pastides said.
     Pastides said paying student-athletes a $9.5 million share for having their names, images and likenesses shown on TV “would be a very serious challenge,” even though the school made $19.7 million last year from broadcast revenue from football and men’s basketball alone.
     Plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Hausfeld pointed to a chart showing a dramatic increase in head football coach Steve Spurrier’s salary from 2006-2013, topping out at $5.5 million last year. Pastides disputed that amount, saying he believed Spurrier makes $4 million.
     The NCAA has been sued by a class of college football and men’s basketball players led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. The student athletes seek a share in the revenues from television broadcasts.
     In testifying before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, Pastides said paid student-athletes would be nothing short of disastrous for students and sports alike.
     “It would create a new and unique relationship for a small minority of students that would be viewed as apart from the student body and a part from the university. It would create a wedge between those student athletes who receive the funds and those who don’t,” Pastides said. “It would offer them a license to not follow the rules of the university and encourage them to have one foot in some prof world and diminish the intrinsic value of them receiving a great education and graduating.”
     Pastides added: “It would render the student athletes who don’t receive these monetary awards as second-class citizens. They would feel worse about themselves and their relationships with players that do receive payments. There would be an increased gulf between them.”
     Under cross-examination from Hausfeld, Pastides said he supports some kind of increased compensation for college athletes but added: “It’s completely a matter of degree.” What Pastides would like to see, he said, is a bigger financial aid package for players.
     Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir echoed Pastides’ comments, saying students would turn their focus away from academics.
     “If we go down that path to paying for name, image and likeness, that takes away from why our students are there, for the education. The focus could be on driving resources in that regard and that would concern me,” Muir said.
     On Thursday, the court will hear from NCAA President Mark Emmert, probably the most highly anticipated witness of the three-week federal trial.

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