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US Supreme Court Rules Against NCAA In Antitrust Case

 |  June 21, 2021

The US Supreme Court on Monday, june 21, ruled against the NCAA in a landmark antitrust case that specifically challenged the association’s ability to have national limits on benefits for athletes that are related to education, but more broadly had raised doubts about its ability to limit benefits at all.

The ruling will end the association’s nationwide limits on education-related benefits athletes can receive for playing college sports, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Athletes playing Division I men’s or women’s basketball or Bowl Subdivision football will be able to receive benefits from their schools that include cash or cash-equivalent awards based on academics or graduation.

Among the other benefits that schools also can offer are scholarships to complete undergraduate, or graduate degrees at any school and paid internships after athletes have completed their collegiate sports eligibility.

Schools will not be required to provide these types of benefits, and conferences can impose prohibitions on certain benefits if their member schools so choose. However, conferences cannot act in concert. So, if a conference chooses to limit or prevent certain benefits, it risks giving a competitive advantage to other conferences.

The ruling was unanimous. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s opinion noted that the lower courts’ rulings left in place in the NCAA’s ability to “forbid in-kind benefits unrelated to a student’s actual education,” but he also wrote: “Nobody questions that Division I basketball and FBS football can proceed (and have proceeded) without the education-related compensation restrictions the district court enjoined; the games go on.”

The ruling  seemed likely to have at least an indirect impact on the NCAA’s attempts to work through a range of other issues, including athletes’ ability to make money from non-university entities off their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote, “… there are serious questions whether the NCAA’s remaining compensation rules can pass muster under ordinary” antitrust legal analysis. Kavanaugh added that the NCAA “must supply a legally valid” justification that “its remaining compensation rules” have sufficient value to promoting competitive balance that the benefits outweigh the harm being done to the athletes.