Expert: Money flow disproportionate

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Economist Roger Noll doesn't have the name recognition of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, but he might be just as important to the future of college athletics.

Noll spent an entire day testifying Tuesday in the O'Bannon-NCAA trial about paying college athletes for use of their names, likenesses and images.

Called as a witness by the O'Bannon legal team Monday, Noll, a Stanford emeritus professor who produced 750 pages of analysis on the topic for the plaintiffs, picked up again Tuesday under questioning by lead plaintiffs attorney Michael Hausfeld.

Noll focused his testimony on trying to show that the NCAA's restraint on athletes receiving compensation harms competition in various ways.

His major points:

• Coaches are getting money that otherwise would go to players.

He and Hausfeld emphasized that the compensation of football coaches has risen more than 500 percent since the 1980s, in part because of exploding revenues and NCAA rules controlling how much of that money can flow to players. Additionally, Noll said, schools are redirecting money to the building and gold-plating of athletic facilities -- $5.1 billion in 104 stadiums, arenas and practice facilities since the late 1990s. 

None of this has helped level the competitive playing field, either, he said. Hausfeld showed slides highlighting the dominance of about a dozen teams in football and basketball since 1993, in contrast to the bottom quarter of programs that struggled mightily.

Hausfeld pulled up a quote from former NCAA official Wally Renfro, who said, "What we really see are the 'haves,' the 'have-nots' and the 'forget-about-its.'"

• Power conferences such as the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC want to do more for the athletes than the NCAA rulebook permits.

Hausfeld and Noll cited NCAA investigations that dinged schools for providing extra benefits -- 27 cases in the Football Bowl Subdivision and Division I basketball between 2000 and 2012 -- as evidence that the market has been distorted by the restraint.

Hausfeld introduced a quote from a presentation made at an NCAA committee meeting by University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and University of Florida president Bernie Machen.

"Most of our institutions are blessed with considerable revenue from our successful programs," they wrote. "However, because of efforts to create 'a level playing field' we can spend these resources in almost any way we want EXCEPT to improve support for student athletes. Too often, our efforts to improve the lives of student athletes have been deflected because of cost implications that are manageable by our institutions but not by institutions with less resources."

Hausfeld also showed a May 14 letter from Pac-12 school presidents proposing to remove a number of restrictions to improve benefits to, and the academic lives of, athletes.

NCAA lawyer Rohit Singla objected to the introduction of the letter into the record, saying that any internal advocacy for reform is not the same as evidence that the NCAA has broken the law.

• College sports in no way are an "avocation," or hobby, for athletes.

Hausfeld used various quotes from journals and economists to contradict the NCAA's assertion that the athletes are students first. Noll said the avocation idea died a hundred years ago. Athletes in the top tier of college basketball and football "anticipate that they will be professional athletes, and they go to college to prepare for a professional career," he said.

• Dispensing with amateurism in major entertainment sports helps, not hurts, an enterprise.

Noll cited the growth of the Olympics as an example, saying that since moving away from that model in the 1980s, "they're much more popular." Hausfeld showed a chart on how various sports leagues and entities have moved away from amateurism, or relaxed prohibitions against athletes receiving money for their performances or images.

After court, Hausfeld said Noll was on point all day.

"He focused on the basics," Hausfeld said. "The NCAA is known by all economists as a cartel, which creates restraints and harm. And the victims of that harm are athletes."

Noll testified for about three hours Tuesday before Singla began a cross-examination that will continue Wednesday. Singla attempted to focus Noll narrowly on the issue of athletes' names, images and likenesses, not, he said, "what is commonly known as pay for play."

The NCAA contends that athletes have no rights to sell as related to television broadcasts and that there is no precedent in the law in which team sport athletes explicitly hand over such rights to sports entities that then sell access to their games to media companies.

Singla said universities own the games because they own the stadiums where the games are played, so the athletes have nothing to sell. In the NCAA's eyes, what TV broadcasters pay for is access to the stadiums, not the games or the performances of the athletes.

The NCAA also claims that prohibiting athletes from receiving money for their names, images and likenesses is key to the integration of athletics and education. O'Bannon on Monday testified about how he spent long hours working on his game and as few as possible on his grades.

The lead plaintiff in the landmark antitrust suit said his goal at UCLA wasn't to get a degree but to get two years of college experience before being drafted into the NBA.

O'Bannon portrayed himself as a dedicated athlete who would stay after games to work on his shot if he played poorly but an indifferent student at best. His job at UCLA, he said, was to play basketball, which took up so much time that making it to class just a few hours a day was difficult.

O'Bannon, who led UCLA to a national championship in 1995, said he spent 40 to 45 hours a week preparing for games or playing them and about 12 hours a week on his studies. He changed his major from communications to U.S. history after an academic adviser suggested it would be the easiest fit for his basketball schedule.

Testimony resumes Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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