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

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

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.