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UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank may be recalled to testify in NCAA antitrust trial

September 25, 2018

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s involvement in an NCAA antitrust trial may not have ended with her testimony last week.

Blank, a witness for the NCAA who caused a stir last Monday when she said “it’s not clear” that UW would continue to run an intercollegiate athletic program if student-athletes were paid, could be called back to the stand.

According to tweets by Law360.com reporter Dorothy M. Atkins, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said in court Monday that Blank may need to be recalled to address a press release issued by UW-Madison to clarify the chancellor’s testimony.

In response to an interview request for Blank from the Wisconsin State Journal, UW-Madison issued a statement last Tuesday that said, in part, that the school “has no plans to stop offering athletics.”

Wilken said that Blank may need to testify on whether she authorized the statement, according to Law360.com.

We’re back. Judge Wilken says she’s concerned that the parties might need to call @UWMadison ’s Rebecca Blank back to testify on whether she authorized a press statement the school issued in response to her testimony last week.— Dorothy M. Atkins (@doratki) September 24, 2018

Lawyers for the NCAA opposed bringing Blank back to testify via video, but attorneys for the student-athletes who are seeking to invalidate NCAA rules that limit compensation to the full cost of attendance said they would use some of their allotted time to call Blank on Tuesday.

The case, brought against the NCAA and major conferences in the Northern District of California by former Division I football and basketball players, is nearing the end of a 10-day bench trial.

Blank testified last Monday that UW-Madison would have to weigh continuing its membership with the NCAA if student-athlete compensation caps were found to be illegal, allowing for student-athletes to be compensated beyond levels now allowable under the national governing body’s rules.

“It’s not clear that we would continue to run an athletic program,” Blank said in her testimony, according to Law360.com. “We’re not interested in professional sports. We’re interested in student-athletes.”

The school’s statement, released last Tuesday, read:

“The University of Wisconsin has no plans to stop offering athletics. Chancellor Blank strongly supports Wisconsin’s athletic program and believes the Badgers are a major asset to our campus and the Big Ten.

“The chancellor’s comments yesterday were offered in the context of describing the economics of running a major broad-based amateur athletics program.

“If a change to the structure of college athletics were to occur, UW would expect to be part of any conversation within the Big Ten and nationally about what that would mean for university athletic programs.

“Plaintiffs in federal litigation have sought to invalidate NCAA rules governing the compensation that may be paid to collegiate student-athletes, arguing that student athletes are treated as professional athletes and should enjoy compensation for the use of their images, names and likenesses.

“Chancellor Blank provided testimony to the court that there is a market separate from professional sports for amateur sports, that college athletes are students first, that paying student athletes would undermine the university community and treat certain student athletes differently than others.

“Chancellor Blank believes that the current set of NCAA rules governing payments to student athletes for the use of their names, images and likenesses are appropriate to maintain a market for amateur athletics in the university setting.”

Attorneys for the student-athletes wanted that statement to be introduced into the record.

Over the wkend, the student athletes’ counsel asked the judge to force @UWMadison to produce a statement it put out last wk downplaying Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s testimony she gave under oath re. cutting sports if schools had to pay athletes. (h/t @JimPuritz24 for the heads up.) pic.twitter.com/Kz1uiCQbVf — Dorothy M. Atkins (@doratki) September 24, 2018

In their response, the NCAA’s lawyers said that amounted to making “a mountain out of a molehill.”

The @NCAA has opposed introducing @UWMadison ’s statement into the record, arguing that the student athletes are making a “mountain out of a molehill.” pic.twitter.com/NOKymwJMOZ — Dorothy M. Atkins (@doratki) September 24, 2018

The ongoing case in Oakland, California, is weighing whether athletes are entitled to a free market for their collegiate careers. It’s one of a number of legal challenges to the NCAA’s limits on compensation for athletes as the national body seeks to protect what it sees as the tenets of amateurism.

Former Badgers basketball player Nigel Hayes was one of the first three plaintiffs in the lawsuit in 2014.

A victory by the student-athletes would “upend the NCAA’s system of amateurism,” Michael McCann, founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, wrote in 2016.

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