(SCOTUS) Upholds Appeals Court Ruling Against NCAA: Colleges Can Pay All NCAA Athletes Education Expenses

Ignatius L Hoops

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A federal appeals court upheld a ruling Monday that will allow colleges to pay for any education-related expenses for student-athletes in the future.

Judge Claudia Wilken decided in March 2019 that the NCAA rules that limit what athletes can receive from their schools violated antitrust law. Wilken limited her ruling to include only benefits related to education, such as covering the costs of "computers, science equipment, musical instruments" and other similar items. She wrote that the NCAA's unique business model justified some limits.

The NCAA appealed her decision by arguing that its current rules, which allow schools to offer athletes only a scholarship and additional cost-of-attendance stipend, were allowed under federal law. Monday's ruling against the NCAA from the appeals court marks another significant step in the ongoing debate about fair compensation for college athletes.

"We hoped for a different legal conclusion by the Ninth Circuit," NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. "...We will continue to review the opinion and determine our next steps."

This particular legal battle began in 2014 when former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston filed a lawsuit against the NCAA. Alston and his attorneys argued that NCAA rules that place any limit on compensation that schools could offer to athletes violated antitrust law
 

MplsGopher

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Can't get much of an education these days without at least having a laptop.

NCAA really wants to prevent schools from buying laptops for student-athletes? Greedy pricks
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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The NCAA's argument was that eliminating restrictions on education related aide was a step toward pay-for-play. Yes, the NCAA remains consistent if silly.

The plaintiffs did not propose a less restrictive alternative to the NCAA rules they are challenging. The plaintiffs offered two unworkable proposals. First, the plaintiffs argued that each athletics conference should have complete autonomy, which would divide college sports. Second, the plaintiffs argued that the NCAA should eliminate restrictions on benefits that tether college sports to academics, which is a poorly disguised effort to permit “pay-for-play” and would professionalize college sports.
 

MplsGopher

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That was just their argument in the original case. Alston originally sought for more than what Judge Wilken was willing to grant, as: "Wilken limited her ruling to include only benefits related to education, such as covering the costs of "computers, science equipment, musical instruments" and other similar items."

But the NCAA still appealed even this. I would like to know what their argument was for appealing that schools can buy student-athletes laptops (not that they are forced to, per se).

And of course, my ire is directed at the NCAA, not you! Thanks for sharing this
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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I didn't think you were directing ire toward me. The NCAA's appeal argument claimed Wilken's 2019 ruling was inconsistent with previous Courts of Appeals and Supreme Court decisions.

I'm one of those people that thought the NCAA should have been happy years ago to accept Wilken's Image and Likeness decision. They could've grumbled for a day or two about an obviously limited defeat and then gladly moved on. Instead the NCAA has presumably decided to pursue absolute clarity as to its standing. If they aren't satisfied by the courts then I'm assuming they will work congress.

From the NCAA case summery:

While the ruling upheld the distinction between full-time students who play college sports and professional athletes, it is inconsistent with decisions by the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court that have said the NCAA should have “ample latitude” to apply its rules in superintending college athletics. For this reason, among others, the NCAA and conference defendants have decided to appeal the District Court’s decision.
 


MplsGopher

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Ok, thanks.

Well, the NIL lawsuit (O'Bannon) was separate. In that lawsuit, Wilken ordered that schools should have to setup trust funds (or something like that) with a maximum of $5k/year in exchange for owning the student-athletes' NILs. I think, it was something like that. But the appeals court overturned that part of it.

This later lawsuit (Alston) was going after the whole amateurism model directly. Wilkin would not grant that.

Even more recently is the push by some states to allow athletes to make advertising deals, which I believe California was the first state to make such a law. Other states are rushing to follow suit, out of fear that now allowing their schools to also do so will put them at a competitive disadvantage.


The NCAA has its legal hand in many pots of boiling water.


Worst of all, is this idea that the P5 could up and decide to leave the NCAA altogether.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Correct, separate cases with same judge, same defendant and each concluding, If I recall, that the NCAA unreasonably restrained trade.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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In unanimous decision, Supreme Court finds NCAA violated anti-trust laws.

Monday’s decision in NCAA v. Alston ended a dispute that began seven years ago as a class action filed against the NCAA and the major athletic conferences by the athletes who play Division I football and basketball. The athletes contended in their complaint that the NCAA’s restrictions on eligibility and compensation violate federal antitrust laws by barring the athletes from receiving fair-market compensation for their labor. A federal district court in California agreed in part: It ruled that the NCAA could restrict benefits that are unrelated to education (such as cash salaries), but it barred the NCAA from limiting education-related benefits. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld that decision, the NCAA and the athletic conferences went to the Supreme Court, which late last year agreed to take up the case.

In a 35-page decision, Gorsuch rejected the NCAA’s argument that the trial court’s ruling would “micromanage” the organization’s business. The district court, Gorsuch explained, only barred the NCAA from imposing restraints on benefits related to education. And it did so, Gorsuch added, only after concluding that “relaxing these restrictions would not blur the distinction between college and professional sports and thus impair demand for college sports” – a cornerstone of the NCAA’s argument. Moreover, Gorsuch noted, the district court gave the NCAA “considerable leeway” in deciding how to define what constitutes an education-related benefit.

In his final paragraph, Gorsuch outlined the dilemma facing the court. Some people may think that the district court should have gone further, he suggested, while “others will think the district court went too far by undervaluing the social benefits associated with amateur athletics.” But in the end, Gorsuch emphasized, the Supreme Court agreed with the 9th Circuit that although “[t]he national debate about amateurism in college sports is important,” it is not the Supreme Court’s job to resolve it. Instead, Gorsuch observed, the court’s job is to determine whether the district court properly applied principles of antitrust law to this dispute – which, Gorsuch concluded, it did.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s opinion in full, but he also wrote a separate concurring opinion in which he questioned the legality of the remaining restrictions on benefits for college athletes. He made clear that although those restrictions were not before the court in this case, Monday’s ruling established a framework for future challenges to the restrictions – and, he wrote, there are “serious questions” about whether those rules “can pass muster” under that framework. Kavanaugh, an avid sports fan who coaches his daughters’ basketball teams and unsuccessfully tried out for the varsity basketball team while an undergraduate at Yale, acknowledged that college athletics includes “important traditions that have become part of the fabric of America.” But, he warned, the “NCAA is not above the law.”
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Big Ten issues...a considered consideration...perhaps.

The Big Ten Conference and our member institutions are carefully reviewing the implications of yesterday's Supreme Court decision in the Alston case, including how they may relate to NIL, to determine the best path forward for our student-athletes and for Conference athletics generally. We remain committed to providing opportunities to our student-athletes and supporting them in all aspects of their academic and athletic endeavors. The Big Ten Conference strongly supports NCAA NIL rules that protect student-athletes without putting them in the untenable position of risking their NCAA eligibility by exercising the rights soon to be afforded to them under state law.
 






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