TIME Basketball

North Carolina Releases Wainstein Report on Academic Scandal

Kenneth Wainstein
Kenneth Wainstein, lead investigator into academic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, holds a copy of his findings following a special joint meeting in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Oct. 22, 2014 Gerry Broome—AP

The report mentions that athletes' academic counselors directed them to take the classes in question

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released the report on its latest investigation into alleged academic fraud on Wednesday.

The report details how a lack of oversight allowed Department of African and Afro-American Studies administrator Deborah Crowder and former chairman Julius Nyang’oro to create so-called “paper classes.” In these classes, students received high grades with “little regard” for the quality of their work.

Nyang’oro and Crowder have been implicated in previous probes into the situation for steering athletes into the aforementioned classes, an issue that was found by a 2012 probe to have dated to the 1990s. This latest investigation was conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein at the request of the university.

While Wainstein’s report still places most of the blame for the fraud in the department at Nyang’oro and Crowder​, it points to the surrounding culture at North Carolina for allowing it to happen. Wainstein mentions that athletes’ academic counselors directed them to take the classes in question, that there wasn’t sufficient external review of the department and that a belief within the school that fraud couldn’t happen there prevented proper oversight.

Wainstein told reporters Wednesday that Crowder, who was largely responsible for creating the fraudulent classes, was motivated by a belief that UNC’s athletes weren’t being supported by the university.

University chancellor Carol Folt said that disciplinary action will be taken against those connected to the probe.

“It is a case where you have bad actions of a few and inaction of many more,” school chancellor Carol Folt told reporters in a conference call shortly before the report’s release. “It is shocking and people are taking full responsibility.”

Wainstein said he has shared his report with the NCAA, which announced this summer that it had re-opened its investigation into North Carolina after new individuals were available to talk to investigators for the first time.

In the report, Wainstein says current North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams became uncomfortable with the nature of the classes in question and attempted to steer his players away from the department. Former star Rashad McCants accused the school of fraud earlier this year. McCants chose not to speak with Wainstein’s investigation.

A previous NCAA investigation resulted in a postseason ban for the football team in 2012 and a loss of scholarships. Wainstein’s report describes academic counselors recommending the department’s classes to football coaches.

From a joint statement released by North Carolina and the NCAA:

The information included in the Wainstein report will be reviewed by the university and the enforcement staff under the same standards that are applied in all NCAA infractions cases. Due to rules put in place by NCAA membership, neither the university nor the enforcement staff will comment on the substance of the report as it relates to possible NCAA rules violations.

It’s unknown when the NCAA’s investigation will be concluded.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Research

Many Colleges Fail to Address Concussions, Study Shows

helmet football concussion
Getty Images

A quarter of schools don't educate their athletes on the injury

Policies guiding concussion treatment at scores of colleges across the country still run afoul of rules set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), according to a new study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

“The vast majority of schools did have a concussion management plan, but not all of them did,” said Christine Baugh, a Harvard researcher and one of the study’s co-authors. “The number of schools who reported to us that they didn’t have a concussion management plan in place affects tens of thousands of athletes each year.”

The study comes as the NCAA faces increased pressure to protect the health of college athletes. Earlier this year, the organization set aside $70 million for concussion testing and research to settle several class action lawsuits. The exact number of college athletes who suffer from concussions during practice and games is unclear, but some estimates put it in the thousands.

To combat concussions, the NCAA has mandated that colleges create “concussion management plans.” While 93% of the 2,600 schools surveyed said they had drafted such a plan to guide their response to concussions, many of those plans lacked components that Baugh says are critical to actually reducing the head injury. For one, about a quarter of schools don’t train athletes to detect concussions, making it difficult for athletes to recognize when they need to seek medical attention. And more than 6 percent of schools allow coaches or athletes who lack formal medical training to make the final decision about whether a student can return to competition after suffering a concussion.

“It may be the case that coaches and athletes are being extra cautious; despite being cleared by a clinician, they are withholding themselves or withholding their athletes,” said Baugh, who was a Division I athlete during her college years. “But it may also be the case that some of these schools, coaches or athletes are pressuring clinicians to prematurely return to play before their symptoms have been resolved.”

The study concludes with a recommendation for the NCAA: step up enforcement of concussion policies.

TIME College Sports

Yet Another Heisman Hopeful Runs Afoul of the NCAA’s Unfair System

Vanderbilt v Georgia
Georgia running back Todd Gurley (right) stiff-arms Torren McGaster of Vanderbilt on October 4, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. Mike Zarrilli—Getty Images

The University of Georgia's Todd Gurley has been suspended after reportedly being accused of accepting money for autographs. What exactly did he do wrong here?

Another year, another Heisman contender’s season interrupted by stupidity.

In 2013, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel–then the defending Heisman trophy winner–became embroiled in a cash-for-autographs controversy. The National Collegiate Athletics Association and Texas A&M said “there was no evidence” that Manziel “received money in exchange for autographs,” but Manziel was still suspended, for the first half of A&M’s opener, for an “inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs.”

The Johnny Football contretemps was a flash point in the longstanding debate about whether college athletes deserve a fairer share of the expanding revenues flowing into college sports. Love him or hate him, why shouldn’t a player who was bringing in millions for Texas A&M be able to receive autograph money if someone wanted to give it to him? What Manziel was allegedly doing was hardly illegal, except in the weird world of college sports.

Turns out, Manziel didn’t get railroaded. After sitting out that first half, he had every opportunity to compete again for the Heisman (though he lost out to Florida State’s Jameis Winston, even after an excellent 2013 season). Looks like University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley won’t be as lucky. Georgia has suspended Gurley indefinitely; SI.com reported that “a person confirmed to Georgia’s compliance office this week he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 items on campus in Athens, Ga., one day this spring. The person claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but neither the photo nor the video showed money changing hands.”

(MORE: TIME Cover – It’s Time To Pay College Athletes)

Gurley is a Heisman hopeful. Through Georgia’s first five games, the junior had rushed for 773 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Georgia is ranked 13th in the AP college football poll: the Bulldogs play at Missouri, ranked 23rd, tomorrow. Not only is Gurley a Heisman candidate, but the Bulldogs still have national championships hopes. So Gurley’s success, and the possible once-in-a-lifetime success of his teammates, are now in jeopardy because he may have received $400. Georgia’s football team generates $77.6 million in revenues, and $51.3 million in profit, according to federal data.

The whole system angers Chris Burnette, who finished his career as a Georgia offensive lineman last season and is now working as a financial planner in Atlanta while finishing his MBA. He vented his frustration on Twitter last night:

Burnette, a vocal supporter of compensation for athletes during his Georgia playing days, sounded exasperated when reached by phone. He says he’s not angry at Georgia, and has no firsthand knowledge of any violations Gurley may or may not have committed. “It’s just so frustrating,” says Burnette. “If a student creates an app, no one is telling him he can’t do something because he’s paid for his talents. For these rules to just apply to athletes, it’s almost un-American, really.” Burnette calls Gurley a “stand-up” guy who would “never do anything malicious.”

“I mean, something has to change,” Burnette said.

Luckily, momentum is shifting towards a fairer system. And cases like those of Gurley and Manziel—stars under fire for breaking rules that defy common fairness—can only help speed things up. Everyone involved deserves better.

(MORE: The Long And Winding Road To Paying College Players)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIME College football

Georgia Indefinitely Suspends Heisman Hopeful Todd Gurley

Georgia v South Carolina
Todd Gurley #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs looks on during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina. Joe Robbins—Getty Images

The player is reportedly being investigated for allegedly selling his image

Georgia Bulldogs tailback and Heisman trophy frontrunner Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely, pending an investigation into the possible violation of NCAA rules, the University of Georgia said Thursday.

The school did not immediately say what the possible violation was, but Fox Sports and ESPN, citing unnamed sources, report that the investigation will look into whether Gurley accepted extra benefits from memorabilia brokers for the use of his likeness.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” head coach Mark Richt said in UGA’s statement. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.”

Gurley, a junior at the college, leads the Bulldogs with 773 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in five games this season. The No. 13 Bulldogs are set to play No. 23 Missouri on Saturday.

[Fox Sports]

TIME College Sports

The Long and Winding Road to Paying College Players

The man who helped win free agency for NFL and NBA players is seeking the same for college athletes

Over the past few months, the movement to pay college players has gained unprecedented momentum. In August, a federal judge ruled that college football and basketball players can earn a share of licensing revenues from the use of their name, image, and likeness. (The NCAA has since appealed the ruling.) An athlete can access these funds, which will be placed in a trust, when he or she has graduated or left the school. Schools can cap the pay, but the minimum cap is $5,000 per year.

This verdict in the so-called “O’Bannon” case – a former UCLA hoops star filed a lawsuit in 2009 after realizing he wasn’t being compensated for his likeness being used in a college basketball video game – came a few days after the NCAA voted to let schools in the Big 5 power conferences – the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC – have autonomy to write their own rules. These schools are prepared to give all their athletes a stipend that covers the full cost of attendance, which amounts to anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 above the value of their athletic scholarships.

In March, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board said that football players from Northwestern University could form a union, since these students act as employees of the school. Northwestern appealed the decision; the NLRB’s national office has yet to rule on the appeal. One just-released paper, to be published in the Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal, argues that the players should win.

(MORE: TIME Cover Story — It’s Time To Pay College Athletes)

However, an even bigger threat to the amateur model looms ahead: the lawyer who helped win free agency for NFL and NBA players is seeking the same open market for college athletes. Jeffrey Kessler, a partner at the Winston & Strawn law firm, filed an anti-trust lawsuit in March that could fundamentally alter college sports. The O’Bannon suit was limited to intellectual property rights: could athletes profit from their names, images, and likeness?

“We’re aiming to enjoin the restrictions placed on Division 1 basketball and major college football players from being compensated for their services, given the huge amount of revenue generated from these sports,” says Kessler, one of the top sports labor attorneys in the country. “What will be decided is whether it’s legal to have a rule that schools cannot compensate athletes at all.”

Kessler’s case won’t go to trial until fall of 2015, at the earliest. If he prevails, the courts may force the NCAA to adopt a true pay-for-play system, which the organization has long dreaded. The mechanics of paying players — do you just pay the football and men’s basketball players, and no one else? Should there be any limits? — are daunting. But the O’Bannon ruling sets some strong precedent for Kessler. The judge in that case, Claudia Wilken, may not have torpedoed the college sports model with her ruling. But she seems to invite someone else to do so.

Her opinion condemns the NCAA, and knocks down some of the most common justifications for limiting compensation for athletes to the value of the scholarship. “The evidence … demonstrates that student-athletes are harmed by the price-fixing agreement among FBS football and Division 1 basketball schools,” Wilken writes.

“It is also not clear why paying student-athletes would be any more problematic for campus relations than paying other students who provide services to the university, such as members of the student government or school newspaper,” Wilken writes in another section.

(MORE: College Athletes Need To Unionize, Now)

There’s nothing amateur about college sports. Conferences own their own television networks. Schools switched conferences to capture more revenues. Coaches salaries have skyrocketed: Newsday just reported that the average compensation for coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the top tier of college football schools – is $1.75 million per year. That number has spiked nearly 75% over the past seven years. Athletes deserve their fair share.

Kessler picked the right time to mount a challenge. “There’s a growing recognition from the courts, the public, the fans, and even the schools that the current system is fundamentally unfair,” says Kessler. “We think change is coming.”

 

MONEY

How This Weekend’s College Football Rivals Stack Up as College Values

The college football season has kicked off. We looked at which of the schools in this weekend's games are the winners in Money's Best Colleges rankings.

  • Texas A&M v. University of South Carolina

    Left: Reveille cheers on the Texas A&M Aggies. Right: South Carolina Gamecocks mascot Sir Big Spur on his perch during the game.
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images (left)—Joe Robbins/Getty Images (right)

     

    When: Thursday Aug. 28, 6 p.m. EDT

    The Winner: Texas A&M, which came into the game ranked 21st in the AP poll, upset the 9th-ranked Gamecocks.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: Texas A&M.

    Texas A&M is one of the most affordable and highest quality public universities in the country. MONEY estimates that the total cost of a degree for freshmen starting this fall will average $86,000—$14,000 less than a degree from the University of South Carolina. Also, Aggies earn, on average, about $52,000 a year within five years of graduation, according to data from Payscale.com. Gamecocks report earning only about $41,300.

  • Penn State v. University of Central Florida

    When: Saturday, August 30, 8:30 a.m. EDT

    Oddsmakers’ pick to win: UCF is given a slight edge thanks to its returning veteran defensive line.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: Penn State

    True, Penn State is expensive—a degree costs Nittany Lions an average of $142,000, or $41,000 more than Knights pay for their degrees—but Penn Staters are much more likely to graduate and earn healthy salaries. Penn Staters report earning almost $51,000 within five years of graduation, almost $10,000 more than UCF grads.

     

  • Florida State University v. Oklahoma State University

    140828_FF_Rivalries_FSUOSU_2
    Getty Images

     

    When: Saturday, August 30, 8 p.m. EDT

    Oddsmakers’ pick to win: FSU, last year’s national champion, is also the top-ranked team this fall, and has top-notch players at nearly every position.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: It’s a tie.

    Schools within about 30 places in our value rankings are very similar, as shown by the slight differences between Oklahoma State, ranked 194, and FSU, 223. OSU’s graduation rate of 62% is significantly worse than FSUs 75%. But OSU students who do make it through tend to earn more: $44,400 a year within five years, versus FSU’s average of $41,600.

  • University of Miami v. University of Louisville

    When: Monday, Sept. 4, 8 p.m. EDT

    Oddsmakers’ pick to win: Louisville beat the Miami Hurricanes soundly in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. But oddsmakers are giving them only a slight edge in the rematch.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: Louisville

    MONEY ranks Louisville No. 382 for value in the country–not great–in part because of its painfully low graduation rate of just 51% (compared with 81% for the University of Miami.) But as a public school, Louisville charges Kentuckians, on average, less than $100,000 for a degree, about half what students at the private Miami typically pay. Those high costs are one reason we ranked Miami 536 out of 665 on our list.

     

  • University of Notre Dame v. Rice University

    When: Saturday, August 30, 3:30 p.m. EDT

    Oddmakers’ pick to win: Notre Dame, even though some its best players have been sidelines by an academic investigation. The Fighting Irish are ranked 17 by the AP poll; Rice is unranked.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: It’s a tie.

    You really can’t lose with either of this schools. MONEY ranks both Notre Dame and Rice equally at 20th place for value. They both have stellar graduation rates of more than 90%. And students go on to earn salaries in the mid $50,000s within five years of graduation, according to Payscale.com. Notre Dame costs more (a degree costs about $185,000, versus $150,000 for Rice), but the higher cost was balanced out by unusually high earnings reported by Notre Dame’s non-science majors.

    See more of Money’s Best Colleges:
    The 25 Most Affordable Colleges
    The 25 Colleges That Add the Most Value
    The 25 Best Colleges That You Can Actually Get Into

MONEY Sports

How College Football Sacked the NBA and MLB

Houston football fans singing the National Anthem
Dave Einsel—AP

With the college football season upon us, it's time to take stock of just how valuable this "amateur" sport has become.

Want to know how rabid fans have become for college football?

Well, the season kicks off in earnest tonight when the South Carolina Gamecocks (ranked 9th in the country) take on the Texas A&M Aggies (ranked 21st).

The game will be played in Columbia, South Carolina, in front of 80,000 screaming fans — an amazing feat given that Columbia has a population of just 133,000. The Aggies, for their part, play in Kyle Field, which in 2015 will be able to hold almost every single College Station, Texas, resident.

Last year, the Gamecocks opened with a game against the University of North Carolina, and 3.7 million people across the country tuned in. That may not sound that impressive, but consider that Columbia is just the 77th largest television market in the U.S., behind cities like Omaha and Toledo.

There’s no doubt about it. Americans love football.

More people watched the NFL Sunday Night pregame show last year than watched the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. In fact, professional football games comprised all but four of the 50 most-watched sporting events of 2013. The National Football League is the most popular spectator sport in America.

What’s No. 2? Not the NBA, not Major League Baseball—but college football. And with college football introducing a new-fangled playoff system this year, expect America’s infatuation to only grow.

Here are a few measures of its influence.

Ratings

The 2013 NBA finals featured perhaps the most popular athlete in the world, Lebron James, as his super team battled against the San Antonio Spurs for seven unforgettable games. An average of almost 18 million viewers saw James secure his second NBA title. A few months later, 15 million baseball fans saw the Red Sox win their third championship since 2004.

How many viewers watched Florida State beat Auburn in the 2014 BCS title game? Twenty-six million, per Nielsen ratings.

This isn’t a one-off event. On average, 2.6 million people watched NCAA regular season football games last year, according to Nielsen. Take Saturday, October 5, 2013. Both the University of Georgia and Tennessee were enduring less than stellar seasons. Nevertheless, 5.6 million people tuned in to see the two Southeastern Conference schools play each another on CBS.

Viewer demand is only likely to increase. Starting this year, college football will institute a four-team playoff to decide the national champion, and rejiggered rules allow the biggest football programs more control over their finances. According to USA Today, these developments will lead to the biggest schools earning 71.5% of the $470 million annual television revenue for the playoff.

Baseball and basketball simply don’t attract as many eyeballs. About 700,000 people watched an MLB regular season game on television in 2013, and 1.4 million watched a non-playoff NBA game in the 2012-13 season. (All are based on nationally televised games.)

The total attendance for 835 NCAA Division I football games was a little more than 38 million, with a per-game attendance of 46,000. The NBA, which has almost 400 more total games in its season, drew 21 million people, while the MLB attracted 30,500 per game. (Major League Baseball has almost three times as many games and brought in a total of 74 million fans.)

Reach

Part of college football’s popularity might be its reach. While the NBA and MLB have 30 teams collected mostly around large metropolitan areas, college football programs exist where there are colleges – which is everywhere. Consider that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have 15 professional baseball and basketball teams. That’s a quarter of all the teams in only four cities.

Now look at NCAA football. The top five teams play in Tallahassee, Tuscaloosa, Eugene, Norman, and Columbus. While it’s true that a number of the West Coast schools play in big cities (UCLA, Stanford, and the University of Washington), most of the big-time schools are the only game in town. If you live in Boise, Idaho, do you really care about anything else the way you care about Boise State Broncos football?

Riches

There is something a bit unsettling about college football’s popularity, and corresponding affluence. A college football coach is the highest paid public employee in 27 states – including South Carolina and Texas. Alabama’s Nick Saban made more than $5.5 million last year, despite the fact that his and every other team’s players weren’t paid anything. (Many were given athletic scholarships, but those can be taken away if a “student-athlete” becomes injured. Just for some perspective: the University of Texas’s football program earned $82 million in profit last year.)

Plus, football is a dangerous game, and it’s an open question whether an institution of higher learning should even be in the business of promoting a sport that causes severe head trauma. (Google: Owen Thomas.)

College football, though, is inexorably linked to American history. The first intercollegiate game took place four years after the end of the Civil War, and the college game itself was saved by then President Teddy Roosevelt.

Otherwise normal, hard-working Americans revert to 20-year-old fanatics every fall Saturday afternoon and cheer on their alma maters. Tonight’s game in Columbia is just another page in the never-ending story of America’s love with her second-favorite sport.

TIME College Sports

Landmark College Sports Verdict: Harsh, but in the End Puzzling

Ed O'Bannon Jr.
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon Jr. sits in his office in Henderson, Nev., Sept. 18, 2010. Isaac Brekken—AP

The judge's injunction in the Ed O'Bannon cases leaves plenty room to further challenge the NCAA's business model down the road

Since the pace of change in college sports is glacial, consider the events of this year – even this past week – a revolution. The latest came down on Friday: a federal judge in the Northern District of California handed down her much-anticipated ruling in the Ed O’Bannon anti-trust case. In a crushing defeat for the NCAA, Judge Claudia Wilken picked apart the NCAA’s long-cherished – though clearly illogical – reasons for failing to fairly compensate college athletes in the sports that produce the bulk of the revenues. Big-time college football players and Division 1 basketball players are now able to earn a cut of licensing revenues from the use of their name, image, and likeness; schools can cap this pay, but the minimum cap is $5,000 per year. This money will be put in a trust that an athlete can access once he or she has graduated or left the school.

The NCAA will very likely appeal the ruling. “We disagree with the Court’s decision that the NCAA rules violate antitrust laws,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. Wilken said that her injunction could not be stayed during any legal challenge, but would not go into effect until beginning of the next football and basketball recruiting cycles, which get going during the summer of 2015. If the case survives appeal, all future athletes who leave school having earned at least $20,000 during a four-year career owe a debt to O’Bannon. The former UCLA hoops star, who won a national title in 1995, first brought the case forward in 2009 after noticing that his image was being used in a college basketball video game, yet he didn’t receive a dime.

The NCAA has been smacked around. The courts – and some of the schools themselves – have recognized the fundamental hypocrisy of college sports: revenues have soared, and coaches can make millions, while compensation for athletes is limited to a scholarship. Free tuition, room and board is valuable, surely, but many players are worth even more. Wilken also determined that the NCAA could not cap direct compensation below the cost of attendance, which is an extra $2,000 to $5,000 above the athletic scholarship grant covering personal expenses like transportation, clothing and entertainment. The schools, however, had already moved on that one: the NCAA voted on Thursday to allow schools in the Big 5 power conferences – the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC – to set some of their own rules, and these schools are prepared to offer their athletes these cost-of-attendance stipends. Schools in the other Division 1 conferences are welcome to join them.

In March, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University are indeed employees, and directed the school to hold a unionization vote. The board’s national office has yet to weigh in on the school’s appeal. Unions could help players gain than even more money at the bargaining table.

“If you look at the Northwestern union decision and the O’Bannon case, here you have two significant departures from the way judges and the government traditionally view at the role of student-athletes in college athletics,” says Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane University Sports Law Program. “If this is the trend, it could be the beginning of the end of the NCAA’s model,” Feldman added.

Wilken’s injunction alone did not entirely blow up the NCAA’s business. Schools can still cap trust payments at $5,000 per year and prevent athletes from receiving third-party endorsements. But her condemnation of the NCAA is sweeping, and almost invites a future plaintiff to try to tear everything down and create a true open market for college athletes.

Some damning examples from the text of the ruling:

  • “The evidence … demonstrates that student-athletes are harmed by the price-fixing agreement among FBS football and Division 1 basketball schools.” In other words, if you’ve played big-time college football or basketball, particularly during the extreme growth period of the last decade or so, you’ve gotten totally screwed. In this section, Wilken notes that the NCAA’s own economic expert called the organization a “cartel” in a textbook he wrote. The NCAA’s effort to keep operating as-is comes off as desperate and silly.
  • “Although the NCAA sought to establish the importance of these restrictions by asserting that they increase consumer interest in FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and Division 1 basketball, its evidence supporting this assertion is unpersuasive.” Finally, we can put to bed the defense that paying college players would cause fans to stop watching games or going to them. After all, what else are you going to do on fall Saturdays? Plus, tailgates are a way of life, and fun as hell. Wilken cites the Olympics and Major League Baseball to back her up. People fretted about allowing professionals into the Olympics, and fought baseball free agency, under the guise that more money for athletes would ruin everything. Yet, the Olympics remain extremely popular, and baseball is economically strong.
  • “The number of schools participating in FBS football and Division 1 basketball has increased steadily over time and continues to increase today … Although [NCAA president Mark] Emmert and other NCAA and conference officials say that this trend is not the result of increased Division 1 revenues, but, rather, because of the schools’ philosophical commitment to amateurism, this theory is implausible.” Translate ”implausible” from the legalese and you have a much stronger word: a federal judge has officially called B.S. on amateurism, which has pretty much been the bedrock of the NCAA’s existence. Schools clamor to play big-time sports to win games and raise a school’s profile and attract more money. If they truly cared about some idyllic, love-of-the-game “amateur” ideal, they’d move down into Division 3. Of course, no schools have done that, and wouldn’t take such action if they had to pay players more, despite protests that these payments are too expensive. “The NCAA’s assertion that schools would leave FBS and Division 1 for financial reasons if the challenged restraints were removed is not credible,” Wilken writes. Ouch, more rough rhetoric. How does Wilken know that FBS schools will still play on? One of the NCAA’s own witnesses, University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides, said as much, testifying that his school “would probably continue to compete in football and men’s basketball” if current compensation caps were lifted. The NCAA has a witness problem.

One key question does arise from Wilken’s finding: If the NCAA’s current payment cap is anti-competitive and harms athletes, why is the cap on a trust fund, somewhat arbitrarily set at $5,000 per year, not anti-competitive? While Wilken goes on for pages ripping apart the NCAA’s arguments with strong evidence, the support for her own assertion that compensation limits are justified is far less convincing.

In the ruling, for example, Wilken addresses the main concern about a true open labor market: “These administrators noted, depending on how much compensation was ultimately awarded, some student-athletes might receive more money from the school than their professors. Student-athletes might be more inclined to separate themselves from the broader campus community by living and socializing off campus.”

Wilken then brings up the flaws of such thinking. “It is not clear that any of the potential problems identified by the NCAA’s witnesses would be unique to student athletes.” Yup, there are plenty of kids on college campuses with lush trust funds and nice cars and access to spending money on college campuses. Most of them haven’t earned it. That’s fine. But if a kid who has worked his tail off playing football or basketball, who might be from a poor family, who’s helping generate millions for the school, is paid a market wage and sets foot on campus with some cash? That’s somehow offensive.

The judge goes here with her line of questioning. “In fact, when the Court asked Dr. Emmert whether other wealthy students – such as those from rich families or start successful businesses during school – raise all of the same problems for campus relations, he replied that they did.” What, really? Haven’t heard of the rich-kid scourge tearing apart college campuses. Wilken continues: “It is also not clear why paying student-athletes would be any more problematic for campus relations than paying other students who provide services to the university, such as members of the student government or school newspaper.”

In three sentences, Wilken legitimizes the arguments pay-for-play advocates have been making for years. So her big conclusion is … “Nonetheless, the Court finds that certain limited restrictions on student-athlete compensation may help integrate student-athletes into the academic communities of their schools, which may in turn improve the schools’ education product.”

What? Here’s another way to read this part of the ruling. Wilken: “Athletes should be paid. Athletes should be paid. Athletes should be paid. So we’ll pay them, but set limits. Why? Err … well, because, ‘nonetheless?’”

After this puzzling paragraph, she does site some justification for her finding. She refers to a survey in which many respondents said they would be less likely to watch college athletics if players were paid $20,000 or $50,000 per year. Wilken supposes that respondents would say they’d keep watching college sports if they had been given a lower figure in the survey – like, say, $5,000 per year. Wilken might be correct. But assumed answers to a survey is pretty weak evidence to support a legal ruling.

She gives some weight to the testimony of Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir, who said, “Where I set the dollar limit, you know, that varies, but it does concern me when we’re talking about six figures, seven figures in some cases.” Muir, however, is far from an independent witness. Stanford is a member of the NCAA. So we’re setting compensation caps because an employer would rather not pay an employee big money? Of course Muir is not comfy; he’s management, and every employer on the planet tries to keep labor costs as low as possible. And by the way, would a six, seven figure paycheck be as concerning to the athlete who actually received it?

Plus, by bringing up baseball to knock down the NCAA, Wilken undermines her own arguments. Yes, free agency showed that players making money would not destroy the sport. In fact, free agents compete in an open market, make millions and millions of dollars – and baseball is still popular. So why wouldn’t college sports still be popular, if the athletes – most of whom would make far, far less than pro baseball players – had the opportunity to maximize their wealth?

Such unanswered questions could be tackled by future plaintiffs – and their lawyers. Wilken, maybe by design, has left grist for more legal challenges to the college sports model. One suit already filed, and likely boosted by the O’Bannon ruling, is an anti-trust claim led by high-profile sports labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who helped NFL players gain free agency. He’s essentially seeking the same for college players.

The next Ed O’Bannon, now’s your time.

TIME College Sports

Some College Athletes Will Now Get Paid—a Little

Cabrinni Goncalvesof the Maine Black Bears tackles Trevor Siemianof the Northwestern Wildcats during their college football game at Ryan Field on September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois.
Cabrinni Goncalvesof the Maine Black Bears tackles Trevor Siemianof the Northwestern Wildcats during their college football game at Ryan Field on September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois. John Gress—Getty Images

Power conferences gain autonomy to make own rules, which will include cash stipends for athletes

Some colleges are going to pay athletes.

The NCAA voted Thursday to allow 65 teams from the so-called Big 5 power conferences—the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC, plus Notre Dame, a football independent that is now a member of the ACC in other sports—to make their own rules. These conferences will to offer their athletes not only a scholarship, but the full cost of attendance: money for extras like food, clothing, the occasional trip to the movie theater and more. Depending on the school, this could amount to athletes receiving an additional $2,000 to $5,000. With further autonomy, these schools will also ease restrictions on contact between athletes and agents, and be able to do things like pay for post-season travel for the families of athletes and invest more money in athletic health care coverage.

The move in many ways reflects an economic reality. These conferences drive the most interest in college sports: Between 2003 and 2012, for example, annual football revenues for teams now in SEC jumped 91%, to $759.9 million. The college football playoff, which starts this season, and the continuing expansion of lucrative conference television networks—the SEC Network debuts on August 14—will continue to pump more riches into college sports. NCAA leaders are recognizing that in this environment, the long-criticized inequity of college sports—that none of this additional money flows into the pockets of the talent actually doing the core work, the athletes—is no longer tenable.

“It’s important for the student-athletes and their welfare,” Ken Starr, president and chancellor of Baylor University, said of the vote. “There are things that we would like to do, and we need to be empowered to do those things.”

While the vote is historic in nature, college sports critics contend it doesn’t go far enough.

“I hope it’s the first step towards players being able to negotiate their own working conditions,” said Richard Southhall, director of the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. “The crumbs are more nutritious than they used to be, but they’re still crumbs.”

The move falls short of giving athletes in the high-revenue sports full salaries, or allowing them to capture their true worth on the open market. To college leaders, such reform would dredge up the dreaded E-word. Athletes would serve as employees, which administrators have determined is incompatible with education.

“If you’re an athlete, going from $0 to $3,500, mathematically, is infinitely better,” said Andy Schwarz, an economist who has done work on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon anti-trust case, in which the former UCLA hoops star and other athletes are challenging the rights of schools to profit off their name, image and likeness without compensating them. “But qualitatively, it still misses the point entirely.”

A decision in the O’Bannon case, which is pending, and a successful effort by Northwestern football players to form a union could accelerate the destruction of the NCAA’s so-called “amateurism” model. But for other critics of the NCAA’s vote, that would be a disaster. To them, autonomy for Big 5 conferences, and cost of attendance subsidies, already goes too far. It will destroy competitive balance in college sports, as the extra benefits offered by the big schools will allow them to attract even more top talent, leaving schools outside these conferences helpless. “The NCAA cannot fall prey to phony arguments about student welfare when the real goal of some of these so-called reformers is create a plutocracy,” Boise State president Bob Kustra wrote in statement in May, “that serves no useful purpose in American higher education.”

Stipends for athletes, however, won’t destroy college sports. Competitive balance doesn’t really exist in college sports now, as almost all of the top high school players are already going to the top schools. In a 2011 paper entitled “Excuses, Not Reasons: 13 Myths About (Not) Paying College Athletes,” Schwarz studied 10 years worth of recruiting data and found that 99% of the high school football players listed as Top 100 prospects on Rivals.com went to power conference schools and Notre Dame. And despite this trend, football teams like Northern Illinois, and basketball teams like Wichita St., have cracked the top of the national rankings, because, as West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck puts it, “recruiting is an art, not a science.” Plenty of talented players are overlooked by big schools, and will continue to be overlooked by big schools, even though players at top conferences are receiving a few thousands dollars extra in stipends. At lower schools, plenty of players blossom into pros, and will continue to blossom into pros, even though their Big 5 rivals are receiving some cash.

Sure, a few players on the margin may choose to possibly sit on the bench at a big conference school, rather than star at the lower levels, because of the extra benefits. But all talent won’t flow upwards, because of simple supply and demand. Schools offer a finite amount of athletic scholarships; every player who wants to play basketball at Duke can’t go to Duke. So they’ll go to, say, Lehigh. And what can happen? We’ll still have charming upsets. If Lehigh could knock off the hyped stars from Duke during the 2011 NCAA tournament, they could still beat them tomorrow, even if the Duke players receive more money.

“Having a little bit of cash doesn’t spoil the entire amateur status,” Luck said.

TIME health

NCAA Proposes $70M Concussion Fund To Settle Lawsuit

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a press conference at AT&T Stadium on April 6, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

The settlement includes funding for testing current and former college athletes

The National Collegiate Athletic Association will pay $70 million for concussion testing as part of a proposed settlement over an ongoing head-injury lawsuit, the organization announced Tuesday. The money would pay for symptom identification for current and former college athletes.

If accepted, the proposed deal, which would also offer $5 million for concussion research, would put an end to an ongoing class-action lawsuit facing the NCAA in federal court. According to the plaintiffs in that case, a 2010 NCAA internal study showed that almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of concussions back on the field. The suit has been riding a wave of accusations that the NCAA and college teams across the country have put players at risk of brain injuries.

“Student-athletes — not just football players — have dropped out of school and suffered huge long-term symptoms because of brain injuries,” the lead plaintiff’s lawyer, Steve Berman, told The New York Times. “Anything we can do to enhance concussion management is a very important day for student-athletes.”

The settlement would affect men and women across all NCAA divisions. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer squads, the settlement also affects basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse teams. All current and former athletes in the NCAA would be eligible for concussion screening and possible damage claims under the proposal.

As part of the deal, college athletes will be required to take a baseline neurological test at the beginning of each year, which will help doctors monitor the effects of potential concussions during the season. Concussion education will also be required for coaches and athletes.

“We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline in a statement. “Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.”

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