Charlie Baker [600x400]
Charlie Baker [600x400] (Credit: Associated Press)

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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- NCAA president Charlie Baker met with coaches and athletic directors Monday at this year's ACC spring meetings, discussing -- among other things -- a potential settlement in the House vs. NCAA case that could reshape the future of college athletics.

Baker said settlement talks -- and the revenue-sharing agreement that would accompany any settlement -- was "only a small part" of his presentation, and he reiterated that there are still a lot of moving pieces and no deadline to finalize a deal. But the framework currently being discussed could provide some needed clarity on how schools manage rosters and player acquisition.

"I think everybody would like to have to be in a position where they feel like they could plan," Baker said, "and in the current world we live in, planning is very hard to do."

Brought by Arizona State swimmer Grant House in 2020, the class-action case claims the NCAA violated antitrust laws by prohibiting athletes from profiting from their name, image and likeness prior to that year. The plaintiffs sought damages in the billions. The potential settlement would involve the NCAA paying more than $2.7 billion and agreeing to a new revenue-sharing model that could shift as much as $20 million annually to athletes.

 

The costs associated with the settlement, along with the possibility of uncapping scholarships, could result in schools that max out those options seeing a budget hit of more than $35 million annually, according to multiple athletic directors who spoke to ESPN. 

Still, Baker said there was broad support for the move, which would provide some much-needed clarity and a framework for a sustainable business model for college sports.

"You can invest in your athletes, you can invest in your programs, you can invest in your future, and have some idea about what the ground is going to be like underneath you," he said. "I think it creates a lot of stability and clarity for schools, and it makes it possible for all of us to start thinking about what the next act really will look like instead of feeling like you're just waiting for the next shoe to drop."

Several coaches and athletic directors who heard the pitch were enthusiastic about the idea of bringing athlete compensation in-house, rather than allocating it to NIL collectives that have only a tangential relationship with a school's athletics department. In most cases, according to several coaches, a revenue-sharing model that sends $5-10 million per year to football players would likely be in the same ballpark as what most schools are already spending via NIL on roster building.

But even the potential settlement comes with big questions, including how revenue sharing will work in conjunction with Title IX, whether the NCAA can leverage a settlement into more cooperation (and protection from future lawsuits) from Congress and whether all schools will be required to spend -- or be capped at -- a specific amount. Multiple administrators who spoke with ESPN on the issue voiced concerns that some schools will receive an equal share of the league's television revenue but spend far below the $20 million maximum on players.

Still, any sense of an endgame in a system that has been repeatedly described as "the wild, wild west" by coaches and administrators would represent a step in the right direction, according to Baker.

"The most important part of the settlement -- and let's face it, there's still a lot of work to be done there -- but it creates a clarity and visibility on a whole bunch of issues that have been roiling everybody for a while," Baker said. "The other thing it does is create predictability and stability for schools, but it also creates a tremendous opportunity for student-athletes, especially at the schools that are most heavily resourced."