Debunking the NCAA’s Myth that Amateurism Conforms with Antitrust Law: A Legal and Statistical Analysis

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This article provides the first detailed study to show that paying college football players does not decrease fan interest in watching college football – thus, substantially debunking the NCAA’s myth that amateurism conforms to the requirements of antitrust law. Part I of this article details the history of collegiate sports in the United States and the NCAA’s amateurism rules. Part II examines the origins and evolution of the NCAA’s procompetitive presumption defense of amateurism; a legal fiction that presumes consumer interest in amateurism justifies a quasi-antitrust exemption for the NCAA’s “no pay” rules. Part III sets the framework for our empirical study by describing how the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning in O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association established the need for an economic investigation into the influence of amateurism on consumer demand for the NCAA’s most popular product, college football. Part IV describes the methods used for the empirical examination in this study and analyzes the results. Finally, Part V concludes with a discussion of the implications drawn from the results of our investigation and explains why the findings in our study disprove the presumption that the consumer demand for college football depends on preservation of regulations that limit athlete compensation.