Episode 579: Is the NCAA An Illegal Cartel? : Planet Money In any other industry, it's illegal for a group of companies to get together and cap wages. What makes the NCAA different?
NPR logo Episode 579: Is the NCAA An Illegal Cartel?

Episode 579: Is the NCAA An Illegal Cartel?

Isaac Brekken/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, seen here in 2010, has won a court ruling in which the NCAA was told it can't forbid college athletes from being compensated for the use of their images and names.
Isaac Brekken/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In big-time college football or basketball, money is everywhere. Millions of fans purchase tickets to games. There are giant TV contracts and million-dollar coaches' salaries. Shoe companies like Adidas and Nike compete for contracts with top teams.

But colleges that are caught paying their players (through gifts or otherwise) face serious consequences — it's against NCAA rules to pay athletes. They argue that college athletes are being compensated in the form of scholarships to their schools. The NCAA also argues that the players' amateurism is what drives fans to watch. If college athletes are paid, why not just watch the NFL or the NBA?

Ed O'Bannon, who played on UCLA's 1995 championship team, led a class action anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA. The case could change the nature of college sports, and it gets at the question of why people watch in the first place.

We have an update on where O'Bannon's case stands today. Plus, a look at a new challenge to the NCAA, led by former University of Wisconsin player Nigel Hayes.

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