Students, alumni, and others have argued for decades that the NCAA should be allowed the option to compensate their student-athletes, given the fact that those athletes generate enormous revenue streams for any university with a sports program.
According to The Blaze, in a landmark, unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been in violation of antitrust laws, which opened the door for student-athletes to be compensated in various forms.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, stunned court observers by suggesting that by not compensating athletes, the NCAA’s actions are no different than companies that would be in violation of U.S. labor laws in any other industry.
What does the ruling mean?
While the SCOTUS decision certainly changes the game for student-athletes and the recruiting tools colleges will soon be able to use to attract top talent, the ruling didn’t concern whether or not student-athletes can be compensated with hard money, as that wasn’t the issue before the high court.
The NCAA has current rules on the books which expressly forbid colleges from compensating student-athletes with money, justifying that decision by arguing that the student-athletes aren’t playing at a professional level and that paying them would tarnish the image of collegiate sports.
The ruling will, however, allow colleges to have the option to compensate the athletes in other ways related to their education, such as study abroad trips, school supplies, tutoring, and scholarships for graduate programs, all of which will likely be carefully crafted by school administrators into attractive packages for future recruits.
The decision was delivered by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws.” Given the ruling, it’s clear that the Supreme Court firmly disagreed with such a request.
Kavanaugh torches the NCAA
Kavanaugh, former President Donald Trump’s second appointee to the high court, wrote in a concurring ruling that he’s willing to take the argument concerning colleges not being allowed to monetarily compensate student-athletes to the next level, suggesting that such a business model in any other industry would be illegal.
“The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels,” the SCOTUS justice wrote. “But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America. All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks.”
According to Fox News, Kavanaugh went on to point to several other examples that reveal the ridiculousness of the NCAA’s justification of not paying college athletes, while accusing the organization of “price-fixing labor.”
He also touched on the obvious fact that without college sports, many universities would be in financial trouble, writing, “The bottom line is that the NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student-athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year.”
Don’t be surprised if the issue of directly paying college athletes eventually ends up on the steps of the high court, as the court made clear this week that it’s more than willing to explore the situation further.