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NCAA files new requests in O’Bannon lawsuit

Dec 13, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

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Less than a month after the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit filed a request for a summary judgement the NCAA filed a request of its own on Thursday night, asking U.S. District Federal Judge Claudia Wilken to not issue an injunction that would prohibit the NCAA and its membership from limiting what scholarship athletes receive. Also of note is the NCAA’s request that a decision be made regarding the use of player likenesses without going to trial.

In that request, according to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, were new statements from conference and school administrators arguing that removing limits on what athletes can receive would impact competition. In its filing in November the plaintiffs argued that this would not be the case, and that the NCAA had not supplied enough evidence to back up that claim.

One of the reasons for the limits, as stated by the NCAA in its most recent filing, is what such measures would do to the competitive balance of collegiate athletics.

“Competitive balance” among schools is enhanced by limits on athlete compensation.

A statement from Baylor University President Kenneth Starr says in part: “Even for the schools that did decide to make payment to its student-athletes, there would be a wide variation of the amount and method of these payments which would ultimately result in a destruction of competitive balance among the paying schools.”

Aren’t these issues already becoming a factor in collegiate athletics? Coaching salaries, training/practice facilities and conference realignment have all impacted the competitive balance in college sports in recent years, as those who have such advantages are generally better-positioned than their counterparts who are lacking in such areas.

And in order to keep up with the arms race some schools have made tough choices, like Temple deciding last week to cut seven sports. Could taking steps to meet the full cost of attendance for scholarship athletes in revenue sports result in more schools having to cut sports that don’t bring in as much revenue? While that’s a tough question to answer definitively, administrators sound convinced that such a move would me a negative for collegiate athletics.

Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis’ statement says, in part: “it is highly unlikely that Michigan State could offset a $10 million shortfall [created by paying certain student-athletes fifty percent of broadcast revenue] without cutting between 4 and 8 sports.”

The case is expected to go to trial in the summer of 2014, and the verdict will likely change the course of collegiate athletics one way or another.

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