Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and this involves the Supreme Court and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court announced it would get involved in the long running dispute about how college athletes may be compensated.
The justices accepted a petition from the NCAA defending its restrictions on compensation for some college basketball and football players, which could have major implications for the way college sports is governed and the authority granted to the NCAA.
The NCAA, along with the other major college sports conferences, asked the justices to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which said the rules were anticompetitive under the nation’s antitrust laws. The appeals court said the NCAA could not cap education related compensation and benefits for college athletes in Division I football and basketball programs.
The Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on antitrust matters involving college athletics since NCAA v. Board of Regents in 1984, a case that stripped the NCAA of its control over television rights. It will now hear this case at a time when the college sports landscape is rapidly shifting and the NCAA’s longtime amateurism model faces attacks on multiple fronts.
Congress is considering multiple bills that would grant college athletes the right to earn money off the use of their name, image and likeness, known as “NIL.” Five states already have passed legislation addressing athlete endorsements, and more than dozen others are considering bills.
The NCAA has resisted any measures that would allow athletes to receive payment. But under growing pressure, its Division I Council, a group of conference officials, university administrators, athletes and other stakeholders who draft NCAA policy, is expected to vote on a measure next month that would allow athletes to earn NIL money starting in August 2021. While the Supreme Court won’t necessarily be hearing NIL arguments, the antitrust case is a related issue that strikes directly at the NCAA’s power and authority.
In March, a three judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld a ruling from U.S. District Judge Claudia Ann Wilken, saying the NCAA can’t place restrictions on the education related benefits available to athletes playing in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision or Division I men’s or women’s basketball. Wilken issued an injunction that included a long list of potential perks that are barred by current NCAA guidelines, such as scholarships for graduate degrees and paid postgraduate internships, as well as computers, science equipment and musical instruments. The NCAA considers how it can maintain its amateurism while also allowing athletes to pursue endorsement money, the organization said in its petition that the 9th Circuit ruling would insert courts too much into the process.
Lawyers representing players led by Shawne Alston, who is a former West Virginia football player, said that is hyperbole. The 9th Circuit’s instructions “apply only to NCAA restrictions on education related benefits that schools may offer Division I basketball and FBS football players benefits such as computers, science equipment, musical instruments, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic awards, and internships,” the athletes told the court in their brief. The ruling does not, however, authorize “so called pay for play, which petitioners argue would be the end of ‘amateur’ sports,” the players’ lawyers wrote. The cases are NCAA v.s Alston and American Athletic Conference v.s Alston. They will be heard at the court after the first of the year, with a decision expected by the close of the court’s term at the end of June.