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NIT case to settle?

Here's an interesting news report from Indianapolis, via Michael at The Sports Law Blog:

The federal antitrust trial pitting the National Invitation Tournament against the NCAA appeared close to settlement Tuesday as the trial was suspended and the sides negotiated.

The NCAA executive council, the highest policy-making group in the association, had an unscheduled conference call Tuesday night to discuss the case.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams declined comment. NIT attorney Jeffrey Kessler didn't return repeated messages.

The trial was about to enter its 10th day. When the jury of eight women and four men entered the courtroom Tuesday morning, they were immediately told by U.S. District Court judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum that they had the day off.

At issue is an NCAA rule requiring schools, if invited, to participate in NCAA postseason events or none at all. The NIT, long a secondary postseason basketball tournament, wants an open market.

Settlement negotiations before the trial failed.

"It's very hard to tell until we get the terms of the settlement, but at a dead minimum, the NCAA thinks there's risk," said Paul Haagen, a sports law expert from Duke University who has been keeping up with the trial. "But it could be that the case didn't go so well for the NIT and they're willing to be more accommodating.

"Sometimes what happens is it's easier to get your client to concentrate when they get a sense of the weaknesses of their case in front of a jury."

The NCAA has a $6.2 billion, 11-year contract with CBS for television and marketing rights to its tournament.

Michael thinks the NCAA has "too much to lose," and that the NIT feels it might have a weak case. That rings true (but read the post for a full sense of his argument). Also to be considered is likelihood that both sides would prefer to avoid dissipating existing rents from an escalation of competition in the post-season. A court-sanctioned settlement which throws the NIT a bone might be a win for both parties, even if the two sides' estimates of the NIT's chance of winning at trial were the same.

Update
: Looks like pure monoply folks! At least by Mike's latest update.