The NCAA and its five power conferences have agreed to allow schools to pay players directly, marking a significant shift in the 100-plus-year history of college sports. This move, part of a multibillion-dollar settlement to resolve three federal antitrust cases, will redefine the landscape of college athletics.

Under the terms of the agreement, the NCAA will pay over $2.7 billion in damages to past and current athletes over the next decade. A revenue-sharing plan will enable each school to distribute up to $20 million annually to its athletes. If approved by Judge Claudia Wilken, this settlement represents a step in the ongoing case to reform college sports, providing financial benefits to student-athletes and clarifying college athletics rules.

NCAA President Charlie Baker and the commissioners of the five power conferences—ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12—issued a joint statement emphasizing the importance of this settlement. “The five autonomous conferences and the NCAA agreeing to settlement terms is an important step in the continuing reform of college sports,” they said, highlighting the long-term benefits for student-athletes and the institution of college sports.

The settlement covers all Division I athletes from 2016 eligible to receive a share of the settlement class. Accepting this share precludes them from suing the NCAA for other potential antitrust violations. It requires them to drop their complaints in the cases of House v. NCAA, Hubbard v. NCAA and Carter v. NCAA.

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While the settlement is a victory for athletes, it does not resolve all the legal issues currently facing the NCAA. Athletes and their advocates continue to push for recognition as employees and the right to collectively bargain, which could lead to further changes in revenue-sharing agreements. This week’s agreement potentially reduces the NCAA’s exposure to antitrust litigation, which has driven schools to provide more for their athletes.

Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins acknowledged the necessity of the settlement despite its temporary nature. He called on Congress to pass legislation protecting the unique nature of college sports, affirming that athletes are students rather than employees and shielding colleges from further antitrust lawsuits.

The agreement will require several months for approval, with schools expected to begin sharing revenue in the fall of 2025. The NCAA’s board of governors and leaders from the power conferences have voted to accept the general terms outlined in a 13-page document. As part of the process, athletes will be informed of the potential benefits and given options to object to or opt out of the settlement.

Despite this settlement, other antitrust lawsuits remain unresolved. For instance, former Colorado football player Alex Fontenot is suing the NCAA over TV rights revenue-sharing. The resolution of these ongoing cases will determine the full impact of the current settlement and the future legal landscape of college sports.

The NCAA’s agreement to pay athletes directly is a revolutionary change that marks a new era in college sports. This settlement is a significant step toward providing athletes with financial benefits and stability in college athletics. The next chapter in this evolving story will depend on the approval of the settlement and the ongoing efforts to balance the interests of athletes, schools and the NCAA.

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