College football players get paid.
A majority of them do not.
In part, the gap between those who do and those who do not is enshrined in the nation’s antitrust laws, which are rooted in the legacy of antitrust concerns that followed the early 20th century.
In 1905, a Supreme Court decision known as Barber v. National Federation of Athletic Clubs sought to declare the sport’s prohibition by colleges and universities a violation of the First Amendment.
“College football is real free speech,” said Jeff Panko, a sports law scholar at USC.
The justices eventually acquitted colleges of antitrust liability. But because they determined that university football programs violate the Sherman Antitrust Act, they gave a strong incentive for athletic directors, administrators and coaches to reach long-term, collective deals that distribute the benefits of revenue-generating programs to their individual schools’ athletes.
“When they see how much money colleges are making off their sports programs, they’re forced to look at deals to see whether there’s any compensation that these student-athletes are entitled to,” said Mark Sheldon, an antitrust law expert at Chapman University Law School.
As a result, the individual schools may find it difficult to build a competitive advantage by stifling athlete participation and recruiting.
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High-profile college football programs, including Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State, lure top recruits with scholarships, plane tickets and housing. Most players simply stay quiet and focus on the game, earning more academic credit and earning extra money in the process.
For instance, for the cost of an annual semester of tuition, books and fees at the College of William & Mary, a William & Mary spokesman said, a top Division I football player would receive $6,600 in money from the school. A fullride scholarship for an average-size institution runs in the six figures, and would add to the total.