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With Payments to College Athletes, Another Fight Looms for Women

After decades of striving, the growing popularity of women’s basketball — including a lucrative new television deal — and recent gains in other sports have put women on closer to equal footing with men in college athletics.

Yet that progress could be stymied by a proposed $2.8 billion settlement announced last week that would allow the first revenue-sharing plan for college athletes. The deal would resolve a class-action antitrust lawsuit between athletes and the N.C.A.A., along with its major conferences.

Perhaps the biggest question about this landmark moment is a familiar one: Will the agreement be fair for women?

The settlement in House v. N.C.A.A., which must be approved by a federal judge, has two main components whose full details are not yet public. Both components could invite scrutiny under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that accepts federal funding, according to lawyers and legal scholars who have followed the case.

One of those components looks forward: Schools would be allowed to set aside around $20 million per year, beginning in the fall of 2025, to pay both male and female athletes. The other looks back: It would essentially allow for back pay of name, image and likeness rights dating to 2016 — largely a share of television revenue from football and men’s basketball.

One familiar barrier for complying with Title IX is the pervasive influence of college football, by far the major cost and revenue driver in athletic department decision-making.

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