July 22, 2024

NCAA president seeks federal help for ‘national standard’ on Title IX as questions mount with House settlement


ATLANTA – NCAA president Charlie Baker is looking to the federal government for help in solving one of the most pressing questions surrounding the landmark $2.8 billion House antitrust settlement.

How Title IX fits into the House settlement, which will pave the way for a new collegiate revenue-share model if approved, has loomed over college athletics since agreed to in May. Title IX requires universities to provide equal opportunities for male and female athletes, which has typically been reflected in the number of scholarships offered to each. 

With schools opting into a revenue-share model expected to cost approximately $22 million annually, how that number will be split up amongst the athletes has prompted great debate. In speaking to college athletes at the NIL Summit at the College Football Hall of Fame, Baker preferred a federal solution – likely from the Department of Education – rather than the NCAA telling its member institutions what to do.

“This is a really hard question for schools to answer on their own for a whole bunch of reasons. The biggest one most schools have said to us is … the rules around equity when it comes to Title IX and around men’s and women’s sports ought to be relatively consistent from school to school and conference to conference,” Baker said. “That’s going to require a national standard. If we create a national standard at the NCAA, the problem with that would be if anybody doesn’t like it one way or the other … it would be challengeable in court. 

“What we really need on this one, in particular,” Baker continued, “is the feds to give us guidance that says this is what a national standard with respect to Title IX and rev share should look like.”

To this point, the Department of Education has yet to weigh in on the Title IX implications of the deal. Without federal guidance, it could mirror how schools approached name, image and likeness, ultimately coming down to risk tolerance on what is permissible — or, at least, legally defensible. In the early stages of figuring out what that’ll look like (should it go into effect for the 2025-26 season), schools are already taking different paths.

“Some schools have already said they’re going to assume the Title IX mandates they give are 50 (percent) to female, 50 (percent) to male based on their student body makeup,” said Mit Winter, an NIL expert and sports lawyer at Kennyhertz Perry. “Other schools are not going to make that assumption and will probably decide football is generating most of this broadcast revenue, and they have a higher NIL value based on that, so we are going to give more to football players and basketball players and some other amount to men’s sports and women’s sports. It’s really going to be up to each school based on legal advice from their general counsel and outside counsel on how they are going to approach Title IX.” 

A big issue, as Baker alluded to, is either path could come with legal challenges. If, for instance, a school splits the $22 million evenly amongst men and women athletes, it could prompt football players to sue if they aren’t receiving enough compensation relative to the revenue they generate for the schools. Expect a conference-level push for uniformity among members if there isn’t a federal answer. It’s not difficult to envision the potential issues if one Big Ten school is spending 80% of that $22 million on football while another is only doing 50%.

Baker, who faced a series of questions from college athletes as part of a town hall format, said the House settlement “still has some steps,” namely completing a longform agreement to be submitted to court, but it is expected to be approved “between now and the end of the year.” The NCAA and the Power Five agreed to a settlement with the plaintiffs, but it will need to be approved by Judge Claudia Wilken before it goes into effect. Len Simon, who has worked on class-action suits since 1974, told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently Wilken’s approval “is not a foregone conclusion.”

There has already been one legal challenge to the settlement from Houston Christian University, a FCS school, which filed a motion last week arguing its interests were not well represented in the House settlement. Last month, multiple Group of Five and FCS leaders voiced opposition to the settlement, believing they were saddled with an inequitable share of the settlement costs despite little input in the discussions. 





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