TIME College Sports

NCAA To Pay Athletes $20 Million in Dispute Over Video Game Images

Sam Keller in Nebraska v Missouri
Sam Keller, then #9 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, plays in a game against Missouri in 2007 in Columbia, Missouri. G. Newman Lowrance—Getty Images

A victory for players seeking a share of the profits from lucrative college sports

The NCAA said it reached a settlement Monday to pay $20 million to former and current student-athletes who claim the organization used the their names, images and likenesses in video games without permission or compensation.

This settlement adds to the $40 million settlement recently reached with Electronic Arts, which distributed the video games in question, and ends the case, which was originally filed by former Arizona State and University of Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller.

The case has drawn national attention for the potential precedent it could set. If approved by the judge, the settlement would mark the first time the NCAA is paying student-athletes for rights related to their play.

“We’ve long held through our various cases against the NCAA that the student-athlete is treated poorly in everything from scholarships to safety. This settlement is a step toward equity and fairness for them,” said Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The NCAA has had rules in place that prevent athletes from receiving compensation other than their scholarships. The NCAA says it does not consider the settlement “pay for performance” and does not plan to change its rules. But debate over whether athletes should share in the returns of lucrative college sports has been pitched in recent years.

In this case, Keller and other student-athletes were included in EA’s NCAA Football, Basketball and March Madness video game series. The players claimed the NCAA and EA conspired to permit the use of NCAA players for their own monetary gain without compensating the players. In contrast, EA paid professional NFL players almost $35 million each year for the use of names and likenesses in NFL games.

“Anyone—even a student-athlete playing under scholarship—should not be exploited for profit, especially by the organization that vowed to prevent the athlete from exploitation,” Berman said.

The student-athletes who will now receive compensation include certain Division I men’s basketball and football players from the years the games were sold, according to the NCAA. The NCAA will issue a “blanket eligibility waiver” for any student-athletes currently enrolled who receive funds from the settlement so the players will not be in violation of NCAA rules prohibiting further compensation.

“The collegiate model of sports provides hundreds of thousands of student-athletes with unmatched opportunities for education, growth, mentoring, and future success,” said Donald Remy, an NCAA lawyer.

This settlement comes as another high-profile case—known as the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit—is beginning its trial. That class-action suit seeks to stop the NCAA from having rules preventing student-athletes from being compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses in video games or broadcasts. While the NCAA continues to fight the O’Bannon lawsuit, it expects the Keller settlements to be approved by the court before March 2015, when the case was originally scheduled for trial.

TIME Sports

College Woos Star High School Quarterback By Writing A Letter To His Cat

Meow.

College sports are serious business. That’s why the genius football recruiters over at Rice University successfully wooed a star high school quarterback, J.T. Granato, by writing a recruiting letter to his cat.

The note—addressed to “Kitty Granato”—read: “Please help us to get J.T. to choose Rice,” adding, “[p]aw me in case you have any questions.”

TIME Football

Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston Cited for Shoplifting

Jameis Winston Heisman Shoplifting
Jameis Winston, quarterback of the Florida State Seminoles, speaks to the media during a press conference after the 2013 Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on Dec. 14, 2013 in New York City. Jeff Zelevansky—Getty Images

The Florida State University quarterback allegedly stole $32.72 worth of seafood from a local Publix

Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida State University, was suspended from the school’s baseball team Wednesday after being issued a citation for shoplifting seafood.

Winston, who plays both football and baseball for FSU, was not arrested for the incident, but was instead issued an adult civil citation. USA Today reports the citation requires 20 hours of community service.

“As a result of his citation last night, we are suspending Jameis Winston from the baseball team,” said FSU Baseball Coach Mike Martin said in a statement. “I am confident he will complete his community service obligation and the situation will be resolved soon.”

Florida State University’s football coach Jimbo Fisher, said, ““I fully support Coach Martin’s decision and will also make sure that Jameis meets all obligations, which I know he will.” The redshirt sophomore is known chiefly for his prowess on the football field, having led the team to a BCS national championship in 2014, but plays for the school’s baseball team out of season.

On Tuesday, Winston was allegedly caught stealing $32.72 worth of crab legs and crawfish from a Florida Publix grocery store, according to CBS12 News. Winston told local officers that he forgot to pay for the seafood after placing an order at the seafood counter.

The shoplifting incident is only the latest trouble for the student. Winston was accused of raping an FSU freshman in late 2012, though he wasn’t identified as her attacker until January 2013. The Department of Education is investigating the school’s handling of the rape accusations under the Title IX amendment of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX requires schools to respond swiftly to any and all allegations of rape. Prosecutors found there was insufficient evidence to bring charges, and Winston has denied any wrongdoing.

Florida State’s discipline policy allows students with civil citations to practice and compete in athletic events, but the final decision rests with the team’s head coach.

 

TIME College Sports

NCAA Hypocrisy Strikes Again: Michigan Star Forced To Go Pro

A "student-athlete" who wanted to stay in school now doesn't have that option

If you can stand 30 seconds of soft torture, please watch this advertisement from the NCAA:

The NCAA has been running such propaganda since last year, during big events like the March Madness basketball games. They’ve always bothered me, since they’re nonsensical. How exactly is bureaucratic sports organization headquartered in Indianapolis a “spirit-squad” for college athletes going on job interviews? I was an NCAA athlete back in the late 1990s. Where were my cheerleaders when I bombed several inquisitions? Well, that was a long time ago. So maybe this pom-pom thing is a new development.

Or is this some kind of metaphorical message? Since you played college sports, and learned teamwork and confidence and other qualities, you’ll be more prepared for real-life events like a job interview? Yeah, OK, whatever. A good ad should require no decoding.

But the key, really, is the end of the ad, when the narrator says that the NCAA is “always there for student-athletes.” We’ve got your back, the NCAA is saying. That’s a bold, strong proclamation.

Too bad it’s not true.

Consider the case of Michigan basketball star Mitch McGary. During the Wolverines’ run to the title game in 2013, the then-freshman emerged as a force, averaging 16 points and 11.6 rebounds in the NCAA tournament before Michigan fell to Louisville in the final. He had shed twenty pounds during the season, and had a kind of goofy, lovable-lug way about him. One of his teammates told a story: While heading to a shootaround in New York City before a game, everyone noticed that McGary wasn’t on the team bus. Turns out he got stuck in a hotel elevator, which gave the team more reason to razzle the rookie: His weight caused it to stop.

But McGary was able to laugh at himself, too. He was just a college kid. And despite his NBA potential, McGary seriously considered remaining in college next year. NCAA, dispatch the spirit squad. The whole point is for these “student-athletes” to stay in school, right?. Instead, McGary is off to the NBA, against his will, thanks to the draconian policies of the NCAA itself.

A back injury limited McGary to just eight games this season. He missed the NCAA tournament. After Kentucky knocked Michigan out of the tournament in the Elite 8, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports: “McGary was contemplating whether to enter the NBA draft or return for his junior season. Coming back would allow him to prove his back was fine and continue enjoying life in Ann Arbor. His play could bolster his NBA draft stock. It was an attractive option.”

But then he got some news: McGary had failed a marijuana drug test during the tournament. And even though he did not play during any of the games, under NCAA rules, he would have to miss all of next season. As Wetzel explains, if Michigan had administered the test during the regular season, and McGary tested positive, he probably would have missed three games under Michigan’s punishment. But since the NCAA takes over the testing during the tournament, McGary is subject to the NCAA penalty: a full-year ban for a first-time offender. For using a recreational drug growing more legal and accepted by the day.

The NCAA denied Michigan’s appeal. But then, right after reaffirming McGary’s one-year ban, the NCAA itself changed the punishment for future first-time offenders, reducing it from a one-year ban to a half-season ban. “Street drugs are not performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation,” the NCAA said in a statement. But the new policy goes into effect on Aug. 1. And the NCAA declined to apply the new standard to McGary.

The NCAA: “We’re always there for student-athletes.”

Sure.

In his interview with Wetzel, McGary took responsibility for his mistake. He smoked marijuana while hanging out with friends in March—usually, he says, he turns it down. He had passed every other drug test Michigan gave him over two years. McGary may have gone to the NBA regardless of this incident. But what should have been a minor, embarrassing suspension for next season turned into a ridiculous one-year ban, and left him no choice.

The NCAA: “We’re always there for student-athletes.”

So if the NCAA refuses to apply common sense to its enforcement system, the least it can do is stop running those ads. Because they’re blatantly hypocritical. And I’d rather not throw a shoe at my television.

TIME Business of Sports

These March Madness Tickets Are Going for a Tiny Fraction of What They Should

College students can buy tickets for this weekend’s NCAA March Madness Final Four in Arlington, Texas, for just $40 apiece, a tiny fraction of the average seat price.

Will students turn around and flip their seats for profits of four, five, perhaps even ten or twenty times what they paid? Well, surely some will be tempted to do just that. After all, these are kids who will soon join the throngs that collectively owe $1 trillion in student loans. But it looks like the entrepreneurial students out there eager to make some cash on the secondary ticket market won’t be able to cash in.

The ticket sales operation for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, one of the four teams remaining in the NCAA tournament, spell out a long list of rules and requirements for those seeking to purchase Final Four seats at the student rate. “Students may only purchase one Final Four ticket,” is the first policy listed. And this one is the rule that makes it all but impossible for students hoping to sell their seats:

The credit card used to purchase tickets must be presented by the purchasing student to gain admission to AT&T Stadium, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. A credit card can only be used to purchase one student ticket, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. Students will also be required to present their WISCARD to gain admission into AT&T Stadium

The rules are the same for students at the three other schools in the Final Four, the University of Florida, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Kentucky. Students who are eligible to purchase seats at the $40 rate should have already received emails explaining how to proceed, and there’s a good chance all of the $40 tickets will be snatched up by Monday afternoon, if not sooner. For everyone else, the NCAA’s sales partner offers a host of pricey options, as do the universities, including travel packages running over $1,000 per person (sometimes not including tickets) and ticket packages for the upcoming semifinal and final game starting at $300, plus a fee of $10 or $15 per ticket. (Also available, curiously: foldable chairs used by UConn during the tournament for $150 apiece.)

Still, the $300 price for tickets is cheap compared to the going rate on the secondary market. The resale and ticket information site TiqIQ.com released data on Sunday indicating that the average price for “all sessions” tickets (entrance for both semifinal games on Saturday) was $1,367.55.

Tickets for the championship game on Monday night are cheaper, averaging $614 of late, with the cheapest “get-in” price going for $118, though of course at this point it’s impossible to know which teams will be playing in the game. As with most sporting events, it appears wise to wait to buy, as it’s expected prices will go down as game day nears. For the last three NCAA championship games, the average ticket price wound up under $500, and the cheap seats sold for under $100, according to TiqIQ.

TIME College Sports

College Athletes Win Right To Unionize

The labor board ruling that Northwestern football players can join a union is a victory for the National College Players Association but a blow for the NCAA

Football players at Northwestern University were awarded the right Wednesday to be considered legal employees and to join a labor union, in a ruling that could have wide-reaching implications for college athletes around the nation.

The announcement by the National Labor Relations Board is a victory for the National College Players Association, which petitioned the NLRB in January for the right to unionize. The player’s association has argued that colleges and the NCAA profit handsomely from student athletics, while imposing rules that prevent student athletes from benefiting financially from their own success, or receiving benefits like workers compensation or the promise that they’ll keep scholarships if they’re injured on the field. Being part of a labor union, they argue, will give student athletes a way to represent their own interests and negotiate for a more equitable share in their successes.

The NCAA has fought efforts to label student athletes employees for decades. “This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” the NCAA said in a statement released after players filed a petition with the NLRB in January. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.”

The NLRB ruling applies only to Northwestern. The NCAA has appealed the decision.

TIME Saving

It’s an Amazingly Awesome Week to Be Selling Pizza, Beer, and Wings

Whole pizza in box, overhead view
Getty Images

The Super Bowl of pizza delivery days is, well, the Super Bowl—Domino's sells some 11 million total slices—but the food delivery business really takes off every March thanks to St. Patrick's Day and the tipoff of the weeks-long NCAA March Madness tournament

This week, the tipoff of March Madness comes on the heels of St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a perfect storm—in a good way—for businesses like Hooters, Domino’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings.

The Super Bowl of all pizza delivery days is well, the Super Bowl. Domino’s says that its busiest day of the year is indeed the Super Bowl, when the chain sells some 11 million total slices, a sum that’s roughly 80% higher than a typical Sunday.

But when it comes to a longer stretch of time in which the pizza business booms day after day, it’s hard to compete with the current week—which kicked off with St. Patrick’s Day and continues on with the start of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Both of these events, it goes without saying, go hand in hand with alcohol and hot greasy food, so it’s natural for businesses focused on the selling of these goods to go all out to boost sales.

According to Kantar Media, March Madness pulls in more national TV ad revenues ($1.15 billion in 2013) than any other post-season sports franchise. That includes the NBA, MLB, and NHL post-season, as well as the much-watched NFL playoffs which, admittedly, feature many fewer games than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. “March Madness is a marquee sports franchise and it’s an attractive opportunity for marketers to connect with consumers over a three week period,” Kantar Media chief research officer Jon Swallen said via press release.

(MORE: Why Your Next Designated Driver Will Be Some College Kid You Never Met Before)

It’s no surprise, then, that Pizza Hut chose this week to announce that its sister brand, WingStreet, has officially been launched nationally and now has a presence in 5,000 locations around the country. They also threw in a deal to try to tempt both St. Patrick’s Day revelers and March Madness viewers into ordering some wings. Starting on Monday, a promotion launched offering eight wings for $5. And if any of the 12 teams in the tournament with “Wings” in their name or a winged mascot winds up winning the NCAA championship, everybody gets a free four-piece order of wings for takeout on April 10.

Meanwhile, Pizza Hut’s biggest competitor, Domino’s, just launched at 50% off regular prices deal on all pizzas ordered online. Timed to coincide with the bulk of March Madness, the offer is good through March 24. (Just enter the code “50off” at checkout.)

Yet another pizza chain, Little Caesars, is repeating a big bet it made last year that no #16 seed would beat a #1 seed in the tournament. It’s never happened, but if such a monumental upset somehow did take place this year, Little Caesars would give away one Hot-N-Ready lunch combo for free to each customer from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 7. What Little Caesars really hopes, of course, is that the existence of this (highly unlikely) giveaway generates attention for its lunch combo, which includes a 20 oz. soda and four “Detroit-style DEEP!DEEP! Dish pizza slices” for $5.

(MORE: March Madness: Be Sure to Watch These Five Games)

Back in the world of wings—more specifically, wings, beer, sports on TV, and waitresses in skimpy tight orange uniforms—Hooters is encouraging fans to play hooky and watch the NCAA tournament while taking advantage of specials like free fried pickle appetizers and buy ten wings, get ten wings free.

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