Review of Industrial Organization

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 347-369

First online:

The NCAA Cartel and Competitive Balance in College Football

  • E. Woodrow EckardAffiliated withCollege of Business, University of Colorado at Denver

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The NCAA regulates college football player recruiting, eligibility, and compensation. The economic theory of cartels suggests that one consequence may be reduced competitive balance. The enforced restrictions inhibit weak teams from improving, and protect strong teams from competition. A “stratification” is implied which should be evident over time as less “churning” in national rankings and conference standings, and fewer schools achieving national prominence. I test this general hypothesis by comparing various competitive balance measures for about 25 years before and after NCAA enforcement began in 1952. The hypothesis is supported by all measures at both the national and conference levels.

Cartel NCAA football competition