The NCAA wants clarification on two points in a California judge’s ruling in the landmark Ed O’Bannon case.
The governing body wrote in a brief to the U.S. District Court on Monday that schools want to know which recruits are covered under the ruling which opened the door to athletes receiving a small percentage of the millions of dollars they help generate.
Judge Claudia Wilken wrote it would affect only athletes who enroll after July 1, 2016, at the beginning of the next recruiting cycles.
The NCAA calls the language about the “next recruiting cycle” ambiguous. It wants the court to establish another date, Aug. 1, 2015, when scholarships can first be offered in the 2015-16 recruiting cycle.
“Under existing NCAA rules, student-athletes in the next recruiting cycle (i.e., student-athletes who would first enroll in college in Fall 2016) may receive offer letters from colleges starting on August 1, 2015. Bylaw 126.96.36.199. NCAA seeks to confirm that the existing NCAA rules can remain in force until August 1, 2015, although we understand the injunction would not permit the NCAA to adopt or enforce rules inconsistent with the injunction on or after that date,” attorneys wrote in the filing, pointing out that is the first day schools can offer scholarships to players in the 2016-17 recruiting class.
On a second point, the NCAA contends, is Wilken’s language regarding the “licensing or use of prospective, current, or former student-athletes” could be interpreted to apply to current players.
“This has prompted concerns among colleges and universities that the injunction might, contrary to the Court’s opinion, apply immediately to current student-athletes,” the attorneys wrote. “Based on the Court’s opinion, the NCAA believes the language of Paragraph 1 refers to compensation only for student-athletes first enrolling after July 1, 2016. Otherwise the injunction would permit colleges and conferences to compensate current student-athletes before the NCAA’s member colleges have an opportunity to consider new rules consistent with the injunction.”
Attorneys wrote that they want the clarifications to ensure that there are no violations of the permanent injunction Wilken imposed, which allows players at big schools to have money generated by television contracts put into a trust fund to pay them when they leave. Wilken said the body that governs college athletics could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 per athlete per year of competition. Individual schools could offer less money, she said, but only if they don’t unlawfully conspire among themselves to set those amounts.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Sunday that the governing body would appeal “at least in part” the ruling.
“We look forward to presenting our arguments on appeal, and in the meantime we will continue to champion student-athlete success on the field and in the classroom,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement released after Emmert’s announcement.
Winning on appeal could be a major challenge given the venue in Oakland, California.
Though the NCAA has a stronger historical record in appeals courts, where a recent University of Illinois study found that it wins 71 percent of the time in both the second and third rounds of cases, this would go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts say that court has generally been a “labor-friendly” court, which could hurt the NCAA’s chances of victory.