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NCAA faces massive potential liability for past antitrust violations

Mike Florio and Chris Simms dissect who the Panthers are most likely to take with the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, weighing the pros and cons of C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young.

The reckoning has arrived for college sports. And it’s going to be expensive.

As it should be.

Two years ago, after the Supreme Court exposed the entire NCAA system as the eating, breathing, walking, talking antitrust violation that it is, the NCAA wisely dropped longstanding prohibitions on the ability of student-athletes to turn their names, images, and/or likenesses into revenue. The NCAA also was required by court order to make certain benefits available to players, above and beyond the bared-bones tuition, fees, room, board, and snacks.

But crying uncle when suddenly in checkmate doesn’t square things for the NCAA when it comes to historic mistreatment of athletes.

Via the Associated Press, a new antitrust lawsuit has been filed against the NCAA and the power five conferences seeking compensation for benefits improperly denied before the 2021 courtroom win. The lead plaintiffs are Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard (who played college football at Oklahoma State) and former Auburn track athlete Keira McCarrell.

Also pending is a lawsuit aimed at forcing the NCAA and member schools to reimburse NIL money lost due to past restrictions on players getting paid.

One of the lawyers handling the case is Jeffrey Kessler, longtime outside counsel for the NFL Players Association and, in turn, thorn in the side for the NFL.

“While the injunction striking down the NCAA’s restrictions on education-related compensation, which was unanimously affirmed by the Supreme Court in Alston, unlocked life-changing benefits for NCAA Division I athletes moving forward, it did not rectify the harm suffered by thousands of Division I athletes who were unlawfully prevented from receiving education-related compensation before the injunction was issued,” Kessler said in a statement. “Plaintiffs aim to recover triple damages for those injuries here.”

Treble damages are a standard component of antitrust recoveries, with the goal of incentivizing litigation and punishing those who violate the antitrust laws.

The NCAA has been violating the antitrust laws for decades. It’s a simple premise. The schools band together under the auspices of a national organization that imposes rules that drastically limit the benefits that can be provided by any of them to student-athletes. This artificially contains the de facto labor costs for the revenue-generating athletics programs, like football.

It was all justified by the warped adherence to “amateurism,” even though everyone else connected to big-time college sports is and always has been getting paid.

Finally, players are getting paid, both from NIL arrangements and, potentially and eventually, a massive damages award or settlement of the pending antitrust cases.