In a landmark decision, a federal judge ruled Friday that the NCAA is in violation of the nation's antitrust laws by restricting the compensation that major college football and men's basketball student-athletes can receive for use of their names, images and likenesses.

U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, in a 99-page decision that followed a contentious three-week trial in June, sided with a group of plaintiffs, led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, who sued the NCAA, claiming it violated antitrust laws by conspiring with the schools and conferences to block the athletes from getting a share of the revenues generated from the use of their images in broadcasts and video games.

"The Court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools," Wilken wrote.

Wilken rejected the NCAA's arguments in defense of its economic model, saying the "justifications that the NCAA offers do not justify this restraint and could be achieved through less restrictive means" while preserving college sports competition.

In a partial victory for the NCAA, though, Wilken said it could set a cap on the money paid to athletes for use of their name and images, as long as it allows at least $5,000 a year for big school football and basketball players.

"We disagree with the Court's decision that NCAA rules violate antitrust laws," NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. "We note that the Court's decision sets limits on compensation, but are reviewing the full decision and will provide further comment later. As evidenced by yesterday's Board of Directors action, the NCAA is committed to fully supporting student-athletes."

Wilken also said she will enter a permanent injunction prohibiting "certain overly restrictive restraints."

The case could be appealed.

In the lawsuit, O'Bannon and 19 others challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds.

Wilken was not asked to rule on the fairness of a system that pays almost everyone but the athletes themselves. Instead, the case was centered on federal antitrust law and whether the prohibition against paying players promotes the game of college football and does not restrain competition in the marketplace.

The plaintiffs gave up their right to damages in a pretrial move that meant the case would be heard only by the judge and not a jury. But even without monetary damages for former players the case was a battle over hundreds of millions of dollars in television contracts that attorneys for the plaintiffs said should be shared with the athletes themselves.