NCAA trial: What you need to know

Graduation rate: Graduation rates are like crime statistics. If you spend a little time with them, you can make them support any point you want to make. There are four different graduation rates that have been described in the trial: the federal rate, the GSR, the APR and the APC. The NCAA invests enormous resources in establishing the latter three of these rates. Don't ask what the initials mean; it just makes everything worse.

The NCAA's purpose is to show that graduation rates are improving and that the current system of student-athletes is working. Grades might be improving, but even with three different calculations of graduation rates, the NCAA does not compare athletes' graduation rates with the rates of other students. And then there are those pesky numbers, such as a 9 percent graduation rate for Arkansas basketball players and a 39 percent rate for Razorback football players.

Inefficient substitution: This has nothing to do with a bungled line change in a hockey game. This is a term used by economists to describe what happens when the NCAA and the universities take in billions from football and basketball and pay the labor force -- the athletes -- nothing more than a scholarship. The athletic departments must spend the money somewhere, and they substitute huge coaches' salaries and lavish facilities for the money they would have spent on labor. The rest of us call it an arms race, but the economists who have testified call it "inefficient substitution." Using terms like "inefficient substitution" is an important part of earning your hourly rate as an expert witness.

Integration: Integration and education have a rich and important history in America. But the use of the word in this trial is different. For the NCAA, this is the most important word. It describes the NCAA idea of the "student-athlete" as integrated into the academics of the school and enjoying the benefits of higher education. If the athletes are paid, the NCAA argues, the athletes will be isolated or "island-ized" and separated from the values and benefits of the school's academic program. If Wilken believes the NCAA's claim that allowing pay to the players will prevent their integration into the school, she will rule for the NCAA.

Let's move on: At least a half-dozen times each day, Wilken issues this order to a lawyer questioning a witness. The judge is worried that the lawyers will not finish the trial by Friday, the deadline she set weeks ago. Instead of parsing and arguing a difficult question to a witness, she will simply say, "Let's move on." Returning to the question after she gives the order to move on is not a good idea. Several of the lawyers have learned this lesson the hard way.

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