Judge rules against NCAA in O'Bannon case

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Judge rules against NCAA in O'Bannon case

A federal judge has ruled that the NCAA can't stop college football and basketball players from selling the rights to their names and likenesses, opening the way to athletes getting payouts once their college careers are over.

In a landmark decision issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds.

In a partial victory for the NCAA, though, Wilken said the NCAA could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 a year for big school football and basketball players.

Wilken was not asked to rule on the fairness of a system that pays almost everyone but the athletes themselves. Instead, the case was centered on federal antitrust law and whether the prohibition against paying players promotes the game of college football and does not restrain competition in the marketplace.

The plaintiffs gave up their right to damages in a pretrial move that meant the case would be heard only by the judge and not a jury. But even without monetary damages for former players the case was a battle over hundreds of millions of dollars in television contracts that attorneys for the plaintiffs said should be shared with the athletes themselves.

In a scathing post trial brief, they argued that the NCAA basically staked its defense on a 1984 Supreme Court decision that said the fundamental rule of amateurism was at the core of the NCAA's regulation of college athletics and that the organization could have suggested other remedies to help athletes to justify its control of the college sports marketplace.

"In some places, it is as if our three-week trial did not occur," plaintiffs' lawyers wrote.

Attorneys for the NCAA, though, said moving away from the concept of amateurism would drive spectators away from college sports and would upset the competitive balance among schools and conferences. They said some of the relief sought by the plaintiffs would allow for third parties to play players and that universities would lose control of their programs.

Several players testified during the trial that they viewed playing sports as their main occupation in college, saying the many hours they had to devote to the sport made it difficult -- if not impossible -- to function like regular students.

O'Bannon portrayed himself as a dedicated athlete who would stay after games to work on his shot if needed, but not much of a student. He said his job at UCLA was to play basketball and took up so much time that just making it to class was difficult.

"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," said O'Bannon, star of the 1995 UCLA team that won the national title. "I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play."

But witnesses called by the NCAA during the trial spoke of the education provided athletes as payment for their services and said the college model has functioned well for more than a century. They contended that paying players would make college sports less popular and could force schools to cut other programs funded by the hundreds of millions of dollars taken in by big time athletics.

The head of the Big Ten painted a dire picture of what college sports would look like in his testimony, saying his conference would likely cease to exist and the Rose Bowl would probably not be played.

Jim Delany said the idea of paying players goes against the entire college experience and he couldn't see league members agreeing to it. If some did, he said, they likely would be kicked out of the conference because the move would create an imbalance among schools that could not be resolved.

"There wouldn't be a Rose Bowl if either they or we were operating in a very different wavelength in terms of paying players," Delany said

That theme has since been echoed by college and conference administrators, even as they move forward on plans -- prompted by the O'Bannon suit and others -- to give expanded benefits to athletes in the 65 schools that comprise the five biggest conferences in the country.

"I fear that we will get past the change and then we'll realize that all the gymnastics programs went away, or that we have agents on campus all the time negotiating playing time for student athletes," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in July. "There's all kind of Armageddon scenarios you could come up with. ... You wouldn't have to be a very good fiction writer to come up with some scenarios that would be pretty scary."

But Rutgers law professor Michael Carrier, a specialist in antitrust and intellectual property law, said the outcome might not be scary at all because the money may not be huge and will be paid only after a player's career is over.

"My sense is something like making these NILs payments after graduation are not really big game changers," Carrier said. "They're just giving the plaintiffs a little piece of the money many people would view them as entitled to. I don't think it will put college athletics out of existence."

La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

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La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

RICHMOND, Va. -- Justin Tillman had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead five VCU players in double figures in a 90-52 victory over La Salle on Sunday.

VCU held La Salle to 15 made field goals and forced 16 turnovers.

VCU went on a 19-0 first-half run -- with 11 points from JeQuan Lewis -- for a 38-14 lead and the Rams led 42-16 at halftime after shooting 51.5 percent. Lewis made 5 of 6 shots and had 13 of his 15 points in the first half.

Samir Doughty added 15 points for VCU (15-5, 5-2 Atlantic 10). Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Jordan Burgess scored 10. Tillman was 7 of 10 from the field as the Rams shot 56.5 percent.

Jordan Price and Saul Phiri each scored 11 points for La Salle (11-6, 5-2) and Pookie Powell added 10. It was a season-high for the freshman Phiri but the Explorers were just 15-of-53 shooting (28.3 percent).

Jay Wright: No. 1 Villanova overcoming 'constant challenge' of championship hangover

Jay Wright: No. 1 Villanova overcoming 'constant challenge' of championship hangover

It's something Villanova is constantly battling, constantly fighting. Jay Wright feels it every day and so do his players.
 
The national championship hangover.
 
About 10½ months ago, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson and several other members of the current Villanova basketball team beat North Carolina, 77-74, at Reliant Stadium in Houston to win the national title.
 
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Wright’s challenge this year has been to try to make it a twice-in-a-lifetime experience.
 
He has a group of young kids who’ve scaled the highest mountain, who’ve lived a dream, who’ve experienced something only a handful of college basketball players ever get to experience.
 
And with that championship has come a sense of accomplishment that’s certainly deserving and understandable but also at odds with the hunger Wright needs from his players to be at their best every moment of this season.
 
That’s the battle Wright and his team is facing. Beating the NCAA championship hangover. 
 
“It’s definitely there,” Wright said Saturday after the Wildcats beat Providence at the Wells Fargo Center. “It’s something you have to deal with all the time, and as you have success it continues, and I’m sure when it comes NCAA Tournament time, it’s going to be (even stronger).
 
“I get it. Everybody said it to me and if someone asks me next year I would say the same thing, that it’s there and you really, really have to address it and deal with it. Every day.”
 
So far, they’re addressing it and dealing with it magnificently.
 
Villanova is 19-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country. The Wildcats’ only loss so far was to No. 12 Butler by eight points at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
 
Although Villanova graduated Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, the nucleus of last year’s 35-5 team is still here. Eight Wildcats averaged 17 minutes or more last year, and six of them — Hart, Jenkins, Brunson, Darryl Reynolds, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth — are still in the program, although Booth is currently injured.
 
Hart, Villanova’s national Player of the Year candidate, said the championship hangover is a real thing he senses every day.
 
“Definitely,” he said. “Coach has been coaching longer than we’ve been alive. He’s got the experience, we’ve just got to lean on his experience. He’s been through these situations, and we just have to be humble and be coachable.”
 
The last team to win a national championship and get off to this good of a start was Duke in 2010-11.
 
But that Duke team lost its 21st game. A win at Marquette on Tuesday would make Villanova 20-1, and that would be the best record to start a season by a national champion since Duke opened 23-1 in 2001-02.
 
So from the outside, it seems like smooth sailing. But Wright swears the championship hangover is something he has to deal with every day.
 
“It’s everything,” Wright said. “You sense that home games are like shows, they’re not competitions. You can just sense it. You can feel it. Everybody’s coming to see the show.
 
“You can’t do that as a player because the other team’s coming in to beat the top team in the country, and they’re at another level. So your players sense it. Everything that goes on around them. The way everybody treats them, and what’s going on in their mind.
 
“They’ve done it. I’m sure there’s some times where Josh and Darryl and Kris are like, ‘All right, we’ve done this already, let’s get through this, let’s get to the NCAA Tournament.’ They never say it, but they’re human beings.
 
“You know there’s going to be some times, some times, when I’m on their butts about little things and they have to think, ‘Come on man, we did this already.’ You know? Then they catch themselves. They never say it, but I can just sense that sometimes.”
 
But the Wildcats keep on rolling. They’re now a remarkable 116-14 in four years with Hart, Jenkins and Reynolds on campus, by far the best record in Division 1 since the start of the 2013-14 season.
 
If anything, Jenkins, Hart and Brunson have all been even better this year than last.
 
Jenkins, who hit the historic buzzer-beater to topple North Carolina in the title game, has career-high averages of 14.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals and is shooting a career-high 43 percent from three.
 
Hart is shooting a career-high 53 percent and averaging career-highs of 19.2 points, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

And Brunson, a sophomore, has blossomed after taking over the point, with 13.9 points, 4.3 assists and 2.5  rebounds per game.
 
“We just have to continue to get better,” Jenkins said. “I believe every guy in our locker room wants to continue to grow and become better. We’re not just satisfied with something we did last year. This is a brand-new year.”
 
Wright was asked if he’s ever had to deal with anything like this before.
 
He didn’t hesitate before saying simply, “No.”
 
In 2009, Villanova went 30-8 and reached the Final 4 but there’s no comparison, he said.
 
“Even after going to the Final 4 in ’09, a lot of those guys left,” Wright said. “We graduated six guys so it was a whole different team.
 
“We’ve got a lot of guys back. We only lost two starters. So all these guys have done it. Mikal Bridges didn’t do it as a starter, Darryl Reynolds didn’t do it as a starter, but they don’t think that way, kids don’t think that way. People don’t treat them that way. Even Jalen Brunson, he started but he was in a different role, but people treat him that way. ‘You’re the national champions, you did it.’
 
“Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono), Daniel (Ochefu), three walk-ons were leaders, they did a lot too.”
 
The Wildcats lost not only a Big East Player of the Year and one of the best big men in the program’s history but also a projected starting guard to injury and their top recruit to eligibility.
 
And they’re 19-1 and No. 1 in the country.
 
You can make a case that Wright is actually doing a better coaching job this year than last year.
 
“It’s just constant,” he said of the 2016 hangover. “They’ve handled it far better than I ever thought 18- to 22-year-olds could, but it’s a constant challenge.
 
“I know you (writers) have children. That’s exactly what it is. Your kid has some good days in school and does well, does his homework, (and thinks), ‘Yeah, I get it.’
 
"'OK, don’t get cocky now.’ Eighteen to 22. And they’ve been amazing. Amazing. But we definitely have to address it all the time.
 
“And I’m not complaining about it. I would take this challenge every year. There’s no reason to complain. You’re a jerk if you’re complaining about it. I’m just being honest about it, that it’s something we address. And I’m happy to do it. And so are they.”