Monday, June 21, 2021

High court sides with ex-athletes in NCAA compensation case

The NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis is pictured, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis is pictured, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that the NCAA can’t enforce rules limiting education-related benefits — like computers and paid internships — that colleges offer to student-athletes, a ruling that could help push changes in how the student-athletes are compensated.

The case doesn’t decide whether students can be paid salaries. Instead, the ruling will help determine whether schools decide to offer athletes tens of thousands of dollars in education benefits for things including tutoring, study abroad programs and graduate scholarships.

The high court said that NCAA limits on the education-related benefits that colleges can offer athletes who play Division I basketball and football violate antitrust laws.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws.” And he said that allowing colleges and universities to offer “enhanced education-related benefits ... may encourage scholastic achievement and allow student-athletes a measure of compensation more consistent with the value they bring to their schools.”

Under current NCAA rules, students cannot be paid, and the scholarship money colleges can offer is capped at the cost of attending the school. The NCAA had defended its rules as necessary to preserve the amateur nature of college sports.

But the former athletes who brought the case, including former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, argued that the NCAA’s rules on education-related compensation were unfair and violated federal antitrust law designed to promote competition. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from enforcing those rules.

As a result of the ruling, the NCAA itself can’t bar schools from sweetening their offers to Division I basketball and football players with additional education-related benefits. But individual athletic conferences can still set limits if they choose.

“It is our hope that this victory in the battle for college athletes’ rights will carry on a wave of justice uplifting further aspects of athlete compensation,” said Steve Berman, an attorney for the former college athletes, in a statement following the ruling. “This is the fair treatment college athletes deserve.”

The NCAA had argued that a ruling for the athletes could lead to a blurring of the line between college and professional sports, with colleges trying to lure talented athletes by offering over-the-top education benefits worth thousands of dollars. Even without the court’s ruling, however, changes seem on the way for how college athletes are compensated. The NCAA has been working to amend its rules to allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, frequently abbreviated NIL. That would allow athletes to earn money for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsement and personal appearances. For some athletes, those amounts could dwarf any education-related benefits.

“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement following the ruling. “Additionally, we remain committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.”

The players associations of the NFL, the NBA and the WNBA had all urged the justices to side with the ex-athletes, as did the Biden administration.

AP College Sports Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.


Rodney Crain 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank Heavens our off season was so quiet, this compensation thing might get a little crazy for the next few decades. I am very confident that the schools, the NCAA, local, and national members of our governments will gently steer us through this overdue and new part of college athletics. And anyone who believes any part of that, minus the words "crazy" and "overdue", the sucker line begins to your left.

Suzi Marshall 1 year, 1 month ago

The NCAA must employ some of the dumbest lawyer's in America for letting this case proceed past the District Court. With the unanimous SCOTUS kicking the NCAA in the teeth, I can’t see how the NCAA can proceed in their case against Kansas and Bill Self, unless they desire to be further embarrassed in court and want to payout untold amounts in penalties. As Gorsuch points out in his majority opinion, the NCAA has a long history of providing confusion in running collegiate sports, consistently in violation with the Sherman Act.

“From the start, American colleges and universities have had a complicated relationship with sports and money. In 1852, students from Harvard and Yale participated in what many regard as the Nation’s first intercollegiate competition—a boat race at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. But this was no pickup match. A railroad executive sponsored the event to promote train travel to the picturesque lake. T. Mendenhall, The Harvard-Yale Boat Race 1852– 1924, pp. 15–16 (1993). He offered the competitors an all- expenses-paid vacation with lavish prizes—along with unlimited alcohol.”

Gorsuch goes on the point out the NCAA has long been confusing and contradictory with what they seek and how their enforcement: “With this much agreed it is unclear exactly what the NCAA seeks. To the extent it means to propose a sort of judicially ordained immunity from the terms of the Sher- man Act for its restraints of trade—that we should overlook its restrictions because they happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money—we cannot agree. This Court has regularly refused materially identi- cal requests from litigants seeking special dispensation from the Sherman Act on the ground that their restraints of trade serve uniquely important social objectives beyond enhancing competition. “

“While we agree with the NCAA’s legal premise, we cannot say the same for its factual one.”

Kavanaugh’s last sentence sums up the case perfectly! "The NCAA is not above the law." That is exactly why so many have disliked the NCAA because of their caviler illegal actions. Good luck NCAA suing Kansas/Self.

Rodney Crain 1 year, 1 month ago

Suzi I am not a lawyer so I will not debate legal points with you, but this ruling and signaling by the justices is different to me then the case brought by the FBI on fraud and corruption. I do not think the NCAA can use the FBI case to penalize KU without clear examples like the FBI used to bring charges against the coaches, people involved. Maybe with this ruling the NCAA will rethink how they judge schools going forward. I am not sure they are that smart.

Suzi Marshall 1 year, 1 month ago

Rodney, the decision itself was very narrow affirming the District Court of N. CA decision as did the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The thing that was so damning was the narrative in the decision which was upped a few orders of magnitude by Kavanaugh's concurring opinion. The justices seemed to be inviting broader and specific litigation by saying, without actually saying the words, 'we will agree with the players EVERY TIME.' The 'crime' Kansas and the coaches are being accused of happened after the district court of N. CA had found the NCAA to be in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The NCAA then took an insanely stupid course appealing, instead of righting their ship. If Kansas, Self or any of the coaches had actively stepped in to kill the deal any player had with a 3rd party, they themselves would have been open to litigation based upon the District Court decision. It's very difficult to get in the head of the NCAA decision making body on how they can continuously make such mind numbing decisions. I suppose it was hubris on their part since they were allowed to get away with their criminal enterprise for decades.

The law finally caught up with the NCAA. Kavanaugh ended the decision with one of the most damning statements: "The NCAA is not above the law."

The old saying is 'the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine' and with all the NCAA's accrued liabilities over decades, I can't see how they will stay in business.

Rodney Schulz 1 year, 1 month ago

The really neat thing about this is that it will quickly demonstrate the haves versus the have-nots. And when this happens, let us all hope that many of the schools start dropping their college athletic programs, or at least substantial parts of them. Maybe down the schools will get back to the purpose for their existence: education.

But don’t get your hopes up, as we all know that the professors and administrators are nothing but a bunch of egotistical, socialistic, barbaric hypocrites.

The good thing is, in summary, that it will likely play out to mean fewer dollars for college athletics and colleges in general.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 1 month ago

No restrictions on educational benefits, soon to be unending:
Cars to get to school.
Unlimited Late Night Graduate Student Tudors.
Study A Broad Programs - Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Zannone, Thailand....Viking Resorts here we come!
Graduate Scholarships.
Spouse and Sibling Scholarships.
Insurances paid, student athlete 401k's, and all you can eat buffets!
You think college and college sports is expensive now, wait until the rest of the students and their parents have to pony up for all this.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree that this ruling and a few others I recall all seem to be going against the general direction the NCAA is moving against KU. They need to withdraw their case. I hope we smash them.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm not convinced that this won't help KU in football. With basketball the benefits of 8-12 players is reasonable; however, with football, I think getting 125 (85 scholarships) becomes hardships. Then start talking about title ix and anything you give has to be equal across the paths, it starts getting ugly quick. The NIL will be a marketing ploy to get people to come, but might benefit KU from the standpoint that they have 24 starters just like OU or TX has, will the TX backup QB that never plays, will he be more marketable than a KU starter? Time will tell, but in the NFL starters get the deals and backups don't. I think KU will stand to gain a couple of recruits that become starters instantly versus backups for 2-3 years waiting their turn.

There will be a little instant gratification.

Keep in mind that most of this is happening already, now you just are legalizing it.

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