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A Historic Turning Point: NCAA and Power Conferences to Directly Pay Players

Posted by Paul Saluja | May 24, 2024

At Saluja Law, we strive to keep our clients informed about significant legal developments, especially those that can have a profound impact on their lives and careers. In a landmark agreement that will reshape the landscape of college sports, the NCAA and its five power conferences have agreed to allow schools to directly pay players for the first time in over a century.

This groundbreaking move comes as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement to resolve three pending federal antitrust cases. Over the next ten years, the NCAA will pay more than $2.7 billion in damages to past and current athletes. Furthermore, a revenue-sharing plan will allow each school to distribute up to approximately $20 million annually to its athletes.

The Settlement: A New Era in College Athletics

NCAA President Charlie Baker and the commissioners of the five power conferences have heralded this settlement as a crucial step in the ongoing reform of college sports. In a joint statement, they emphasized that the agreement not only benefits student-athletes but also provides much-needed clarity across all divisions of college athletics.

“This settlement is a roadmap for college sports leaders and Congress to ensure this uniquely American institution can continue to provide unmatched opportunities for millions of students,” they stated. “We look forward to working with our various student-athlete leadership groups to write the next chapter of college sports.”

Who Benefits and How

All Division I athletes dating back to 2016 are eligible to receive a share of the settlement. This includes thousands of former and current athletes who have contributed to their sports but were previously unable to profit from their efforts due to restrictive NCAA policies.

However, as part of the settlement, athletes must drop their complaints in the three open cases—House v. NCAA, Hubbard v. NCAA, and Carter v. NCAA—and forgo the right to sue the NCAA for other potential antitrust violations.

Approval and Implementation

The settlement terms require approval from Judge Claudia Wilken, who has overseen several impactful antitrust cases involving the NCAA. This process is expected to take several months, with schools likely beginning to share revenue by fall 2025. The detailed terms, outlined in a 13-page document, have been accepted by the NCAA's board of governors and leaders from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12, as well as Notre Dame.

Addressing Financial Equity

Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins acknowledged the complexities and temporary nature of the settlement but stressed its necessity to avoid the potential bankruptcy of college athletics. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would preempt the current patchwork of state laws, establish that athletes are students seeking degrees rather than employees, and protect colleges from further antitrust lawsuits.

Ongoing Legal Challenges

While this agreement addresses several key issues, it does not resolve all pending legal matters affecting the NCAA. Athletes and their advocates continue to push for employee status and collective bargaining rights, which could further reshape the landscape of college sports. Additionally, other antitrust lawsuits, like the one filed by former Colorado football player Alex Fontenot, remain unresolved.

Moving Forward

Steve Berman, co-lead counsel for the athletes, expressed confidence that the settlement would hold, despite the potential for athletes to opt out. The detailed process for distributing the $2.7 billion in damages involves complex formulas devised by a sports economist to ensure fair allocation based on factors like market value and career achievements.

This settlement represents a significant milestone in the ongoing evolution of college athletics. As Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman aptly noted, “We have a chance right now to reshape the model in the most meaningful way of any of our lifetimes.”


At Saluja Law, we are committed to supporting the rights and opportunities of student-athletes. This historic agreement marks a new era in college sports, promising greater financial equity and fairness for athletes. We will continue to monitor developments and provide our clients with the latest information and guidance to navigate this evolving landscape.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to advocate for fairness and opportunity in collegiate athletics.

About the Author

Paul Saluja

Paul Saluja is a distinguished legal professional with over two decades of experience serving clients across a spectrum of legal domains. Graduating from West Virginia State University in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, he continued his academic journey at Ohio Northern University, gr...

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