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NCAA agrees to let schools pay players

NCAA logo

University logos cover a wall in the lobby of NCAA headquarters Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Indianapolis. Photo Credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

College sports have been changing in major ways over the last handful of years, and they are about to change even more.

The NCAA has agreed to allow five conferences to pay athletes in the future as part of a deal that would settle three pending federal antitrust lawsuits involving the collegiate athletics governing body.

The settlement agreement, which needs to be approved by a judge, would call for the NCAA to pay $2.7 billion over 10 years to past athletes. One of the terms of the agreement would also see members of the five power conferences pay up to $20 million per year to its athletes as part of revenue sharing. Schools paying players likely would not begin until the fall of 2025.

The conferences that voted to approve the settlement and pay players in the future include the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

Athletes who agree to the settlement will not be able to bring future antitrust claims against the NCAA. The $2.7 billion payment pool would allow all Division I athletes since 2016 to claim a share of the money.

Though this agreement would settle three pending antitrust claims, it does not mean the NCAA is free entirely from lawsuits; athletes could decline to receive some of the $2.7 billion payout and instead pursue individual claims against the NCAA or try to start other class-action lawsuits.

It’s unclear what such a settlement might mean for the Name, Image and Likeness collectives that have been formed at many schools. Those collectives have raised funds that have been used to effectively pay players to play for their respective schools. The original intent of the new name, image and likeness rules was to allow college athletes to be compensated for doing things like appearing in advertisements or signing autographs. Instead, the spirit of the NIL rules have been circumvented.

Throughout its history, the NCAA had staunchly enforced rules that kept its athletes as amateurs, preventing them from earning money while in school. Now the NCAA is about to let college athletes get paid by schools, which would mark a massive change.

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