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NCAA to allow Power 5 conferences to pay players in unprecedented agreement: report

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NCAA to allow Power 5 conferences to pay players in unprecedented agreement: report

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For the first time in the history of college sports, the NCAA has agreed to allow its Power Five conferences to pay players directly, according to ESPN.

ESPN learned the NCAA and the conferences are planning to move forward with a “multibillion-dollar agreement to settle three pending federal antitrust cases,” and the organization will “pay more than $2.7 billion in damages over 10 years to past and current athletes.”

There has also reportedly been an agreement on a revenue-sharing plan, which would allow each school to share up to around $20 million per year with athletes. 

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NCAA logo on trophy

The NCAA logo on the 2023 Division I men’s basketball national championship trophy Nov. 27, 2022, at Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, R.I. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Power Five conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 — all voted to accept the general terms of the agreement with the NCAA. 

As part of the settlement, Division I athletes dating back to 2016 who wish to receive a share of the settlement are not permitted to sue the NCAA for other antitrust violations. And if they’re a part of House v. NCAA, Hubbard v. NCAA or Carter v. NCAA, they must drop their complaints. ESPN adds revenue sharing will likely start in the fall of 2025. 

This may just be the beginning of how college sports are about to evolve. There are still other legal issues to hash out, including athletes’ interest in becoming employees and possibly unionizing.

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“We recognize that we’re just on the front end of this entire process,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, who serves as the chair of the NCAA’s Division I Council, said via ESPN. “There’s a lot to be sorted out as we try to really wrap our arms around some of the details that we’re putting in place now.”

Judge Claudia Wilken, who is presiding over the three cases against the NCAA, will reportedly be alerted by the parties involved with final details in court over the next 30 days. 

NCAA logo outside the national office

The NCAA logo at NCAA headquarters Feb. 28, 2023, in Indianapolis.  (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Wilken can reject the settlement terms, antitrust attorneys told ESPN, or athletes could opt out and join another pending antitrust case. 

If she does approve the details, Steve Berman, co-lead counsel for the athletes involved in the antitrust lawsuits along with Jeffery Kessler, told ESPN a website will be created, and notices will be sent to all players explaining their options.

Berman said there are more than 10,000 former and current athletes who stand to gain from the $2.7 billion in damages that would be paid out. A sports economist has put together a “series of formulas” that will determine how the money is divided. 

With NIL and the transfer portal creating a free-for-all in college athletics, athletic directors also told ESPN they are “hopeful the settlement lays the groundwork for a system where success on the field is less dependent on which schools can spend the most money.”

NCAA logo on a board

The NCAA logo before a second-round NCAA Tournament game between the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Colorado Buffaloes at Gainbridge Fieldhouse March 24, 2024, in Indianapolis.  (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

“I think we have a chance right now to really reshape the model in the most meaningful way of any of our lifetimes, and maybe the most meaningful way there has ever been,” Whitman noted, via ESPN. 

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There are still questions that need answering regarding the future of college sports, but this first-of-its-kind agreement could be the foundation for schools to regain control of college sports. 

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