At a forum convened to discuss the business of college sports, Texas Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson said on Tuesday that the university is planning on setting aside $6 million per year to pay football players and men's basketball players.
The news comes on the heels of the landmark ruling in the Ed O'Bannon case in favor of the claimants, as the judge found "that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools."
As a result, players in those two sports could eventually receive deferred compensation of no less than $5,000 per year for the use of their names, images, or likenesses, though there seems to be some disagreement in the wording between the injunction that was filed and the wording of the ruling.
So, according to Patterson, $5,000 of the planned $10,000 in compensation would be for that purpose, with the rest covering addition costs past a traditional full scholarship.
But even as Patterson acknowledged that the school will comply with the ruling, he remained outspoken in favor of the current business model, pointing out that a full scholarship for a football or basketball player ranges from almost $70,000 to nearly $80,000, even without the new planned payments. The talking point for Patterson remains his belief that student-athletes aren't currently being exploited, a stance that isn't especially earning him any fans.
The big question moving forward, however, is when the payments will begin. The new regulations on pay won't take effect until the next recruiting cycle, which would be for the 2016 class, so the implementation of payments is still almost two years away.
However, it could also take much longer, as the NCAA has said that it plans on appealing the case and taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. If that does indeed happen, it could potentially delay such payments indefinitely.
There's another key point in all this -- if the O'Bannon ruling does hold upon appeal, major-college sports aren't going to become the Wild West with some schools paying athletes much more than others. The $10,000 -- or whatever the cap is eventually set at -- will become the standard.
However, many schools currently in the FBS will probably not participate in that particular model. The ruling states that if schools don't "unlawfully conspire" to set amounts, the could end up paying less than $5,000. In addition, if the school doesn't try to sell anything with the likeness of players, then there wouldn't be anything to put into the trust funds, though it's not clear if that would require schools to stop selling broadcast rights to games.
The timing of the ruling comes as there is an increasingly sharp divide between the haves and the have-nots of college athletics, especially in the Football Bowl Subdivision. In August, the NCAA Board of Directors voted to approve autonomy for the Power Five conferences (the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC), a decision that was fueled by the incredible influx of money from television contracts into those conferences.
Basically, those conferences will be able to set their own rules for stipends, the size of full scholarships, and other aspects like the size of coaching staffs.
It's a time of big changes for college sports, but the significant point remains that Texas is merely preparing for the possibility of making payments to players, just as every forward-thinking athletic department should be doing at this time.
And nothing is going to happen until 2016 at the earliest, and possibly not even then as the O'Bannon case works its way to the Supreme Court.