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Antitrust Implications of Enforcing NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1: Yale Journal On Regulation

Daniel A. Crane's Analysis of NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1 and Its Antitrust Implications:

In his Yale Journal on Regulation article "More on Sign Stealing and Antitrust," dated November 14, 2023, Daniel A. Crane examines the antitrust implications of NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1 in light of Michigan Football's sign-stealing allegations. Crane argues that while the rule is not inherently illegal under antitrust laws, its enforcement could face legal scrutiny. He asserts the rule, viewed more as financial than game-related, might restrain competition, leading to antitrust risks.



Key Points from Crane's Article:

  • Rule of Reason: Bylaw 11.6.1 is subject to antitrust's rule of reason, adding complexity and unpredictability to its enforcement.

  • Financial Focus: The rule, while not directly mentioning money, impacts financial aspects like scouting.

  • Competition Restraint: Agreements to stop scouting could be illegal under antitrust laws, but Bylaw 11.6.1 avoids this due to its integration into NCAA regulations.

  • Effects Argument: The rule's adherence or violation might affect on-field performance, but its financial motivation remains unchanged.

  • Salary Cap Analogy: Similar to professional sports salary caps, a total ban on scouts is akin to a $0 salary cap and could be anticompetitive.

  • Legal Risks: Enforcing the rule carries antitrust risk; a well-crafted legal complaint could lead to significant proceedings under the Sherman Act.


Relevance to Michigan Football's Sign-Stealing Allegations: Crane's analysis indicates that enforcing Bylaw 11.6.1 in cases like Michigan's sign-stealing allegations might encounter antitrust law challenges, raising questions about the rule's legitimacy and NCAA's enforcement approach.


In-Depth Breakdown of The Daniel Crane Article On Sign Stealing and Antitrust

Daniel A. Crane's article in the Yale Journal on Regulation discusses the antitrust implications of enforcing NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1 in the context of sign-stealing allegations, like those associated with Michigan Football. Crane points out that while some business practices are outright illegal under antitrust laws, a rule prohibiting scouting would be judged under antitrust's rule of reason, which is more nuanced and unpredictable​​.


He elaborates that the no-scouting rule is seen more as a financial rule than a game rule. The rule doesn’t directly mention money but aims to prohibit conduct (scouting) that inherently involves financial considerations. For instance, an agreement between schools to discontinue scouting would typically be illegal under antitrust laws as it restrains competition. However, Bylaw 11.6.1 escapes per se illegality because it's part of NCAA’s regulation of college athletics, though it still carries antitrust risks​​.


Crane also touches on the effects argument, where adherence or violation of the rule by schools could impact on-field performance. He argues that this doesn’t change the underlying financial motivation of such rules, likening it to rules on player compensation or NIL (Name, Image, Likeness), which were struck down in previous cases​​.


He further illustrates his point using the example of salary caps in professional sports, which are legal only due to a statutory labor exemption for collective bargaining. Absent this exemption, such salary caps would violate antitrust laws. This analogy is used to show how a total prohibition on scouts, as in Bylaw 11.6.1, could be seen as a $0 salary cap and thus anti-competitive​​.


In conclusion, Crane emphasizes that while there are arguments that the no-scouting rule doesn't violate antitrust laws, enforcing Bylaw 11.6.1 still creates antitrust risk. He suggests that a well-crafted complaint against this rule under the Sherman Act could likely survive a motion to dismiss, leading to discovery and potential legal complications​​.


In the context of Michigan Football's sign-stealing allegations, this analysis suggests that the enforcement of Bylaw 11.6.1 could potentially face legal challenges under antitrust law, raising questions about the rule's validity and the NCAA's enforcement actions.



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