Supreme Court Justices Hear NCAA Case

Imagine waking up at the crack of dawn every day and getting out of bed to immediately start training. Gasping for air as you go down for that one final push-up, you are rewarded with your alarm going off to remind you it’s time to go to class. After hours of lectures and assignments handed out, you spend hours practicing and training until you can barely stand. When practice is finally over, you head to your house where you’re greeted with envelopes containing bills to pay, and immediately leave for your job, trying to do as much of your homework as you can on the way over. For years this has been the life of many college athletes, however, a recent development can change all that.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

For the first time in over thirty years, the US Supreme Court agreed on Dec. 16 to hear a case involving the NCAA, an immense accomplishment for all college and hopeful college athletes. The court decided to review an appeal by the NCAA to a lower court about an antitrust lawsuit that could allow student-athletes to receive more money from colleges. The case was brought by Shawne Alston in 2014 when he argued that NCAA policies that restrict the compensation of college athletes violate antitrust laws. However, the NCAA believes any expenses paid by colleges other than what is directly related to education would blur the line between college and professional sports.

According to long-time-NCAA-fan Daniel Sitrin, junior, “the NCAA gets a little stingy with stuff like education-related expenses, but I think they should pay for it. Things like internships and study abroad programs are what a lot of college students do, so student-athletes should get it paid for.”

Currently, the NCAA rules place limits on how colleges can compensate their athletes for non-educational purposes. This means they can restrict the amount of funds colleges give their student-athletes for purposes such as new computers, musical instruments for classes or paid internships which many students use to pursue their academic interests. 

Photo courtesy of Joe Ravi

However, Bethany Mays, a sophomore and member of Woodson’s crew team, believes “[student athletes] are already getting their education paid with a scholarship which is an amazing opportunity and more than enough, so I don’t think they should have other expenses paid that aren’t required for their education. Basically, all college students are part of extracurriculars, but they have to pay for it themselves.”

 

Mays then talked about how college athletes have more opportunities than others by saying, “athletes have the chance to go pro and be on TV, so they have other ways to save money.”

The NCAA also maintains that they have long paid for reasonable expenses such as tuition, uniforms and travel, but will not permit other funds many colleges give to students which they believe is too similar to the experiences of pro athletes, who receive pay for playing. The organization believes it’s important to distinguish between students and professionals to preserve their status as amateurs, a long-standing hallmark of college sports. 

“They should keep the restrictions since there are big schools who can afford to pay their athletes for playing, but other ones can only pay for their tuition, which is what they should be doing,” Daniel Sitrin said.

Sophomore Jillian Ferrari, a member of Woodson’s swim team, however, believes the issue is a little more complex. She said, “It’s definitely important to recognize that they’re still students and not professionals, but a lot of the times they’re doing around the same level of work as a pro, so it would be nice to get compensated for it.”

In addition to being paid for playing, pro athletes also rely on advertisements and other publicity deals to make money. This is another matter the plaintiffs want to have in common with pro athletes, to be able to use their name and image for compensation which would lead to opportunities such as sponsorship deals. However, the NCAA is already changing their rules to permit this, and many states are passing bills ensuring that the NCAA won’t restrict students from earning money from their popularity. In April of 2020, the NCAA Board of Governors announced each of the three divisions will develop specific proposals to allow student-athletes to be compensated for third-party endorsements related to athletics, without the association of schools, institutions, trademarks or logos. The legislation will then be considered, and if approved, would be implemented for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year. 

“I think they should be able to profit off of their name and image and should be able to sign with different advertising people,” Mays said. “That has nothing to do with their playing for their college, so the NCAA should allow it since it doesn’t fall into the college category.”

The lower courts found the NCAA in violation of antitrust laws and barred them from limiting education-related expenses. However, it required any compensation to athletes to be tied to their education, making it a win for both the NCAA and plaintiffs. The case will be argued before the Supreme Court in the next few months, and a decision will most likely be made before the end of June.