The N.C.A.A. said on Saturday that it was appealing a Federal District Court’s decision earlier this month that found that barring athletes from being paid beyond a scholarship and related costs violated antitrust law.
“We believe, and the Supreme Court has recognized, that N.C.A.A. member schools and conferences are best positioned to strengthen and revise their rules to better support student-athletes, rather than forcing these issues into continuous litigation,” Donald Remy, the N.C.A.A.’s chief legal officer, said in a statement.
Remy said the decision to appeal, by the N.C.A.A. and the major college conferences named as defendants in the suit, was unanimous.
The ruling this month by Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California was actually far more favorable to the N.C.A.A. than the plaintiffs, a class of Division I men’s and women’s basketball players and football players, had hoped.
The suit, known as Alston after a lead plaintiff, argued that the N.C.A.A.’s rules barring payments to players — the center of what the association terms the collegiate model, and what is broadly known as amateurism — was illegal collusion. It asked the court to declare as much, and to eliminate all such rules, leaving it up to individual conferences to set caps independently if they so chose.
Instead, while Judge Wilken agreed that the rules were illegal, she found that an alternative, in which the N.C.A.A. continued to restrict payments unless they were tied to education, was acceptable. Under her ruling, colleges could give athletes items like computers, but the N.C.A.A. could continue to bar them from receiving cash in express exchange for their athletic contributions.
Judge Wilken cited a 2015 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a similar case, in which a three-judge panel partially insisted that payment to athletes be “tethered to education.” The same appellate court — albeit likely three different judges — would hear this appeal.
While the N.C.A.A. largely welcomed Judge Wilken’s finding when it was handed down, it said on Saturday that it sought more: to get the courts out of regulating college athletics as much as possible.
“While the district court upheld the distinction between full-time students who play college sports and professional athletes, it erred by giving itself authority to micromanage decisions about education-related support,” Remy said.
Jeffrey Kessler, a lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said of the appeal in a text message on Saturday morning: “We are not surprised. It was a major defeat for the N.C.A.A.”