NCAA agrees to 'road map' settlement for college athlete payments

(Reuters) - The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has agreed to allow member schools to share revenue with athletes directly and will pay nearly $2.8 billion in past damages, in a settlement resolving claims from players suing over their athletic service.

The NCAA and two plaintiffs’ law firms that led the class-action lawsuits in U.S. court disclosed the framework of the landmark settlement on Thursday, after the collegiate athletics governing body and member conferences approved the accord.

The settlement resolves three lawsuits that alleged the NCAA violated antitrust law by restricting the compensation and benefits to students for their athletic service. The NCAA has denied any wrongdoing.

Under the terms of the deal, subject to a judge’s approval, the NCAA would eliminate certain rules that barred schools from making direct payments to athletes. Schools also will be allowed to share revenues with athletes through new payments and benefits. The plaintiffs' attorneys estimated the value at more than $20 billion over 10 years.

Jeffrey Kessler, a lead attorney for the athletes, predicted a “new world” for college players after the settlement. Attorney Steve Berman, who co-led the cases with Kessler, called the deal “revolutionary.”

The NCAA and a group of its conferences in a statement called the settlement “a road map for college sports leaders and Congress to ensure this uniquely American institution can continue to provide unmatched opportunity for millions of students.”

The deal doesn’t resolve every case against the NCAA.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers representing college athletes in a lawsuit against the NCAA in Colorado told a judge they will scrutinize the terms of any proposed settlement.

That lawsuit, filed last year, said the NCAA had deprived student players of billions of dollars in compensation from televised broadcasts of college athletics.

The NCAA also faces ongoing litigation over various rules concerning transfer eligibility, recruitment-related compensation deals and prize money earned at non-NCAA events.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; Editing by Michael Perry)

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