3 Takeaways From The Ninth Circuit Ruling On NCAA Athletes

The decision contains major implications for college athletes.

On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a decision that largely upholds the August 2014 ruling in O'Bannon v. NCAA, which stated at the time that the NCAA's model violated antitrust laws. 

The 78-page decision is undeniably significant, but it is also long and convoluted. Even NCAA president Mark Emmert admitted the NCAA had yet to parse through the specifics when it issued a general statement early Wednesday. But make no mistake about it: There are important details about this decision that could have major impact on the future of the NCAA.

In the event that you don't have time to go through the whole thing yourself -- and let's be honest, you don't -- here are the three major takeaways from the decision.

1. The panel of judges said they believed that "amateurism" does serve a significant purpose for the NCAA

Although the judges said that NCAA's notion of "amateurism" is constantly changing and inconsistent, they also said they believe "amateurism serves some procompetitive purposes," as they believe the concept of amateurism plays "some role" in making the on-court and on-field products more appealing to fans.

In the judges' view, another one of the benefits of amateurism has social effects. If athletes were to start receiving large sums of money, they agreed with the NCAA's reasoning that it could create a "wedge" between athletes and other students. 

Along with that sentiment, Judge Jay S. Bybee said if the athletes were to receive compensation outside of the university, it would be a "quantum leap" from the current model. 

2. The judges rejected an initial proposal that would have allowed college athletes to receive up to $5,000 a year

Although the court of appeals decided to uphold that the NCAA was in violation of the antitrust laws, they decided to throw out the Judge Claudia Wilken's proposal to give athletes up to $5,000 a year in deferred compensation.

This decision has the most tangible short-term effect of anything in Wednesday's decision as college athletes were on track the benefit in the near future. Instead, the judges ruled that the universities need only to cover the cost of attendance for college athletes, a setback. "It does not require more," the decision said.

(It should be noted that many top sports college programs are already providing stipends to college athletes.)

3. But, having said all that, the judges believe the current NCAA model violates antitrust laws

While advocates for college athletes rights experienced some losses on Wednesday, they unambiguously scored the biggest victory too when the panel agreed with the notion that NCAA schools are receiving "labor for in-kind compensation" from the student-athletes and are as such participating in commercial transactions.

The NCAA has repeatedly claimed that its model should not be subject to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 because it does not regulate commercial activity. But judges ruled that their argument was "not credible."

This is arguably the most important takeaway from the decision as it opens the door for further litigation, including the current lawsuit against the NCAA brought about by attorney Jeffrey Kessler. As Vice Sports notes, "Unlike O'Bannon, the Kessler suit seeks an open market with no scholarship cap, full stop." 

Wednesday's decision was far from the end of the NCAA's legal battles. In some ways, it's only the beginning. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of the piece stated that the Sherman Antitrust Act was from 1980 when it was actually passed in 1890.  

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