SCOTUS Case Could Have Big Impact on College Sports

Andy Berg Headshot

Amid the backdrop of March Madness, the Supreme Court of the United States this week is hearing a case that could change the nature of college sports.

Former student-athletes are suing the NCAA. They have won in every lower court where the case has been heard. The lower courts have agreed that the NCAA rules capping education-related benefits violate federal antitrust laws.

If the caps are removed, the resulting environment would allow for colleges and universities to compete for college athletes by offering over-the-top education benefits worth tens of thousands of dollars.

“This is letting the schools provide encouragement to be better students and better educated ... in return for what amounts to full-time jobs for the school. What could possibly be wrong with that?” said lawyer Jeffrey L. Kessler in an interview with the Associated Press ahead of arguments in the case, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

NCAA chief legal officer David Remy defends the association’s position, saying the Supreme Court has previously ruled to preserve the amateur status of college sports.

Justices will hear argument via phone due to COVID-19 and hope to issue a decision in the case before they leave for summer break at the end of June.

According to the AP, athletic scholarships can cover the cost of college athletes’ attendance at college, which includes tuition, housing and books, plus a stipend determined by each school meant to cover things like travel expenses and other incidentals. A ruling for the students would mean that the NCAA can’t bar schools from sweetening their offers to Division I basketball and football athletes with additional education-related benefits. 

The case is part of movement by current and former college athletes who believe they should be compensated for their part in lucrative business of college athletics.

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