OAKLAND, California - The head of the Big Ten painted a dire picture of what college sports would look like if players were paid. He said his conference likely would cease to exist and the Rose Bowl probably would not be played.
Jim Delany said the idea of paying players goes against the entire college experience and he couldn't see league members agreeing to it. If some did, he said, they likely would be kicked out of the conference because the move would create an imbalance among schools that could not be resolved.
The longtime commissioner said it also would bring about the end of the Rose Bowl as a traditional New Year's Day game between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams.
"There wouldn't be a Rose Bowl if either they or we were operating in a very different wavelength in terms of paying players," Delany said.
Delany followed NCAA President Mark Emmert to the witness stand in a landmark antitrust suit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and others. They dispute the NCAA's contention that college sports would be thrown into turmoil if players win the right to be paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses in television broadcasts and videogames.
Like Emmert, he said college sports would be irreparably damaged in many ways if a century-old tradition is breached by payments.
"These games are owned by the institution and the notion of paying athletes for participation in these games is foreign to the notion of amateurism," Delany said.
Delany acknowledged that the Big Ten gets hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from its sports, with each school receiving a $25 million share of the proceeds. But he said most of that money goes into programs and academics, even at a time when coaches are earning millions of dollars a year.
Under cross examination, Delany was asked how much athletes get of the approximate $230 million a year the conference gets in broadcast rights and from its Big Ten Network.
"There is no athlete's share of broadcast rights," he said.
That might change someday if O'Bannon and others succeed in getting an injunction in federal court that would allow them to band together and sell the rights to their images. They envision a system where players get a share of the rapidly growing pool of broadcast money, with the money split equally among team members and handed out after a player leaves school.
The plaintiffs argue that the NCAA's rules on amateurism — which Emmert testified form the core of the organization — are illegal because they artificially stifle competition. Much of the testimony has concerned the way the NCAA defines amateurism at a time when billions of dollars are pouring into college sports and almost everyone but the athletes are making money from them.
The NCAA has said it would appeal any such injunction all the way to the Supreme Court if U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken rules against the organization. It could be years before the issue is settled.
Delany took the stand after Emmert concluded seven hours of testimony. The NCAA leader said he was opposed to paying players for anything more than the cost of attending university, but said that paying coaches millions of dollars a year was something that was commonly accepted.
Emmert acknowledged that when he was LSU's president he made Nick Saban college football's highest-paid coach after the Tigers won the national title in 2004. And when he was president of the University of Washington, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian was the highest-paid state employee.
"I certainly didn't change any trend if that's your point," he told plaintiff attorney Bill Isaacson.
The trial is being held without a jury and is expected to last another week, with Wilken ruling weeks after that on the request for an injunction.
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