After a group of former college athletes including Ed O'Bannon, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson sued the NCAA and EA over the uncompensated use of their likeness in videogames and other media, EA and the NCAA reached a settlement last year for about $60 million. Today, ESPN reports that a judge has ruled on the case in favor of the athletes, saying the "NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade." In a 99-page ruling (embedded after the break), US District Judge Claudia Wilken decided the NCAA can't stop football and basketball student-athletes from being paid for the use of their name and likeness, but did allow the NCAA to set a cap on the amount the amount of compensation they can receive while in school, as long as it's now below the cost of attendance. The NCAA can also cap the amount of money schools or conferences could deposit in a licensing trust that's payable when athletes leave school or their eligibility runs out, but it would have to be at least $5,000 per year at big schools. In a statement, the NCAA said "We disagree with the Court's decision that NCAA rules violate antitrust laws" and promised further comment later.
An injunction against the organization won't take effect until the next recruiting cycle (any athlete enrolled before July 1st 2016), but it will not be stayed pending any appeal. The plaintiffs themselves aren't due to receive any damages, but this does put future athletes in line for a cut of the lucrative ($838 million last year) TV contracts and other licensing that occurs. It doesn't mean players are getting paid to play, and they won't get paid based on their performance, just from revenue earned by licensing their names and images. EA had put a hold on its college games, but this could put them closer to a return, and could see the next Johnny Manziel counting up some real cash.