• In this file photo taken Jan. 14, 2014 attorney Jeffrey L. Kessler walks out of federal court after presenting oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in St. Louis. Kessler is representing Clemson football player Martin Jenkins and two others in a lawsuit against the NCAA. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

    In this file photo taken Jan. 14, 2014 attorney Jeffrey L. Kessler walks out of federal court after presenting oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in St. Louis. Kessler is ... representing Clemson football player Martin Jenkins and two others in a lawsuit against the NCAA. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2013, file photo, Clemson defensive back Martin Jenkins (14) stops The Citadel's Dalton Trevino during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C.  Jenkins has filed lawsuits against the NCAA challenging rules against paying players. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

    FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2013, file photo, Clemson defensive back Martin Jenkins (14) stops The Citadel's Dalton Trevino during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C. Jenkins has filed lawsuits against the NCAA challenging ... rules against paying players. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File) (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this April 2, 2015, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions during a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament in Indianapolis. Though blocked from forming their own player unions, lawsuits filed by college athletes are still challenging longstanding NCAA rules capping pay. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

    FILE - In this April 2, 2015, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions during a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament in Indianapolis. Though blocked from forming their own player unions, lawsuits filed by ... college athletes are still challenging longstanding NCAA rules capping pay. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) (The Associated Press)

Legal showdown decades in the making looms over the NCAA's ban on paying student-athletes

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Lawsuits against the NCAA are asking a core question with multibillion-dollar implications: Can college athletes be paid like the pros?

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For years, the NCAA has been accused of illegally blocking the sort of competition expected in a free market.

For example, the U.S. Supreme Court found in 1984 that the NCAA was illegally limiting the number of televised football games, which financially hurt schools. It's settled cases accusing it of capping pay for assistant coaches. A judge found it unfairly blocked athletes from compensation when their likeness is used commercially.

Now athletes are suing to overturn NCAA rules that prevent more competition and block them from getting more than just their scholarships and school-related allowances.

NCAA officials have said the rules are necessary to preserve a tradition of amateurism.