Court Deals Huge Blow To NCAA Over College Athlete Pay

NCAA compensation rules for college athletes violate antitrust law, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday in a case brought by athletes seeking a slice of the billions of dollars universities reap from football and basketball.

The case came amid mounting public pressure for colleges to give athletes better benefits. A California federal judge last year had ruled against the NCAA, and said it should allow schools to pay athletes up to $5,000 per year in compensation.

Critics say the NCAA's scholarship policy short-changes athletes who risk injury and devote many hours to practice sessions, travel and competition. The majority of college athletes do not go on to play professionally.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NCAA must permit schools to provide student-athletes sums covering up to their cost of attendance. However, it reversed the lower court's order providing for $5,000 per year.

In a statement, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the association has allowed schools to provide up to the full cost of attendance since Aug. 1, and does not think that should be mandated by the courts.

An attorney for the athletes could not immediately be reached for comment.

More than 20 current and former athletes filed an antitrust class action against the NCAA. The NCAA says it is defending amateurism in college sports.

Broadcasters including Walt Disney Co and CBS Corp have rallied behind the NCAA, arguing in court filings that the idea each participant in a team sporting event has an individual right of publicity, which entitles them to compensation, "is simply wrong."

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)