The NCAA president has pledged to address the challenges ahead as a pending antitrust settlement paves the way for player compensation

LAS VEGAS – When Charlie Baker was named president of the NCAA in December 2022, the message to him from the membership was clear.

“Just do it something” Baker said Monday during remarks at the annual meeting of the National Association of Athletics Directors.

Baker went the extra mile, taking a victory lap of sorts in front of about 3,000 attendees in a packed ballroom at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. During his 40-minute State of the Union address, Baker tried to reassure union members in the aftermath last month’s House v. NCAA settlement.

“We now have an opportunity to sign the framework and put things behind us,” Baker said in his first personal comments since the landmark agreement.

The case resolved a series of potentially devastating antitrust cases and put the NCAA on a course where it is on the brink of paying players for performance. As it stands, the NCAA and its member schools face a $2.8 billion punitive damages award. Going forward, power conference schools will be forced to set aside an average of $22 million a year for the next 10 years to share with athletes.

“I certainly know that honoring the terms of this settlement will be difficult,” Baker explained. “I will say that the NCAA is making every effort at the national office to find savings, generate revenue and translate that into financial impacts for schools in the years to come.

“As you know, this case has consumed an enormous amount of time, resources and worry for everyone, not just Division I. If accepted, the proposed settlement would bind the NCAA and all schools in DI for the next 10 years. years.”

We face enormous obstacles over the next decade. While the settlement limits antitrust liability in these cases specifically, it does not stop other categories of athletes from filing lawsuits in other cases. NACDA convention administrators were concerned about how Title IX would apply since lineup limits were likely to be part of the settlement. Resources would need to be reallocated to finance these higher ceilings, which could potentially create gender inequality.

“There will always be open cases,” Baker said. “If you told me what I heard about membership literally the moment I walked in the door, it would be, ‘How are you going to handle these employment-related antitrust cases?’”

Despite the settlement, the NCAA did not agree to collective negotiations with athletes that could have led to the establishment of an employee-employer relationship. The NCAA continues to seek a carved-out antitrust exemption from Congress to enforce its rules and/or to remove the authorization for collective bargaining without declaring players to be employees.

If it happens at all, it likely won’t happen until next year as Congress comes to a close.

Baker wouldn’t go so far as to predict that U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, who is overseeing the settlement, would approve it 100% as written. However, the settlement is expected to move quickly and will likely be tentatively finalized in early July. Any benefits for current athletes will likely not occur until the fall of 2025.

Wilkin has overseen some of the NCAA’s largest antitrust cases over the past decade.

“One thing I know is that probably no one has been more closely identified with these issues than she has over the last 10 years,” Baker said. “He is, without a doubt, the (best) person in the dock to look into this. This experience, this history, makes me think she’ll take whatever she gets seriously, but I can’t imagine predicting how this case will end.” “