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Bozeman Daily Chronicle

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- NCAA President Mark Emmert stuck to his contention that amateurism is the core of college athletics, saying any effort to pay players would destroy a framework that has been in place for more than a century and cause many schools to either abandon sports or refuse to play other schools that do pay.

Emmert said college athletes themselves wouldn't want to play against other athletes who were getting paid.

"They want to know everyone is playing by the same rules," he said. "They want to know the other teams consist of student athletes just like them."

Emmert took the witness stand Thursday in a landmark antitrust trial against the NCAA to say college sports would be fatally flawed if players were allowed to receive a portion of the billions of dollars in basketball and football television revenues now flowing into big conferences and colleges.

Emmert said one of the biggest reasons fans like college sports is that they believe the athletes are really students who play for a love of the sport and for their school and community. He said fans understand college players aren't as good as professionals, but that doesn't stop some programs from being more popular than professional teams.

"To convert college sports into professional sports would be tantamount to converting it into minor league sports," Emmert said. "And we know that in the U.S. minor league sports aren't very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience."

Emmert's testimony came in a muchanticipated appearance as the NCAA tries to convince U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken that its system of socalled amateurism is not anti-competitive and is the best model for regulating college sports.

Watching closely from the plaintiff 's table was former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, who along with 19 other former players is seeking an injunction that would allow players to band together and sell the rights to their names, images and likenesses (NILs) in broadcasts and video games. O'Bannon testified on the first day of the trial last week that he went to UCLA to play basketball and that he was a student grudgingly at best.

The lawsuit and other efforts targeting the NCAA have already had some effect, with the biggest five conferences moving quickly toward giving athletes more money and benefits. Emmert said he supported those moves, but said giving athletes more than the true cost of attendance would cause a free-for-all in recruiting and force many schools to give up smaller sports.

Many schools, he said, would simply leave Division I sports rather than pay their players.

Under friendly questioning by an NCAA attorney, Emmert defended the concept of amateurism, which he said has been a core principle from the time the NCAA was founded in 1905 to today.

June 21, 2014

 
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