NCAA v Alston goes to Supreme Court today

And could have an even bigger impact on college sports than the names, images and likenesses ruling (from the same federal judge). The two sides have 30 minutes each to make their arguments.

Cliff’s Notes version: Shawne Alston was a West Virginia football player. He and other present and former college athletes got together to sue the NCAA in 2014, alleging that NCAA rules violate federal antitrust law by colluding to limit compensation for the people who bring in all the money – the athletes.

Federal Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that college athletes could not become fully professional, but that the NCAA members could not collude to place any caps on “education-related” compensation, such as computers the players could use in class, science equipment, post-graduate scholarships, etc. The NCAA appealed, claiming schools would take the loophole and run wild with it.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Wilken’s ruling, and now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. It’s the first college sports-related case in 40 years, since the court ruled in NCAA v Board of Regents that the NCAA could not limit schools’ or conferences’ rights to negotiate their own TV deals, which led to the current explosion of televised games (and money) for college sports and indirectly led to NCAA v Alston. There was also a phrase in the majority opinion of NCAA v Board of Regents that the NCAA has been hanging on for 40 years. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “In order to preserve the character and quality of the ‘product,’ athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class, and the like …” And Judge Wilken deferred to that somewhat in her ruling.

Andy Staples and Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic go deep into the issues here. Paywall but I understand some of you have found a paywall loophole:

Staples says if SCOTUS upholds the Alston ruling, it will be raining iPads in college sports. He might not be kidding.

Again, this has nothing to due with NIL payments, which would not be coming from the schools but from outside sources. Alston is about direct compensation from school to athlete beyond cost of attendance.

My problem has always been, Collegiate athletic events are not a professional arrangement and not a business. At least in theory it is not a business.
collegiate sports should not subject to antitrust laws, but I certainly agree
from my viewpoint the lines have become difficult to see.
I have no simple answer, but athletes in college should not be employees, just students.

I feel however, my concepts are soon gone with the wind.

Good follow on the questions being asked by the Justices.

That went out the window when colleges started signing billion dollar TV contracts to see those students block and tackle or dribble and shoot, As my old boss would say, you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube. And that Crest has already been squirted out. It’s just a question of how much more the tube gets squeezed.

I agree. I just hate to see my world so changed.

I disagree that its the players that bring in the money. College fans pay to see their schools regardless of who is on the team.

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College fans pay to see their teams WIN. Remember the acres of empty seats while Chad Morris was going 4-18? And the players do the winning. Not the coach, and not the name on the front of the jersey.

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If coaches have nothing to do with winning then why do we have them?

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You gotta be kidding me. At some point in your life you had a job, right? And somebody told you what to do at your job? Coaches absolutely have a role. But Nick Saban hasn’t made a tackle or thrown a block or scored a touchdown since he was a DB at Kent State in 1972. He directs and recruits the guys who do, but it’s the guys on the field who win games for Alabama.

Put it this way: Bama isn’t selling 100,000 tickets a game to see Nick pace the sidelines and scream at the officials.

Meanwhile Nick’s making $10 million a year and his players are “student athletes” who get a pittance (the tuition, room, board and books at Bama are about $27,000 for an in-state student, $45,000 for out of state).

Yeah, there are a lot of people in the real world who make less than $45,000, and I’ve been one of them from time to time over the last 40 years. But they don’t have rare talents in high demand. Bama athletes, and ours and everybody else in D-1, have rare talents in high demand but can’t receive anything approaching what those talents are worth. The Alston ruling wouldn’t open the floodgates, but it would make things a little more equitable.

I don’t have a problem with Nick making $10 million, or with Muss making whatever HY is about to give him (I’m hearing some unconfirmed numbers; let’s just say it’s a VERY nice raise). That’s what the market bears. But the athletes need to get a little piece of what the market bears for them, too. And it wouldn’t be altogether terrible if coaches made a little less so the second-string offensive tackle can afford to go grocery shopping (I know we feed our athletes very well at the Jones Center, but not every school has one of those) or take his girlfriend to a semi-decent restaurant occasionally.

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It’s a rare talent that needs no career guidance.

And we know now what happened today in SCOTUS. Court watchers will tell you that the questions the justices ask can tip off how they’re thinking, and they were questioning the amateurism model the NCAA depends on.

A decision is expected in June, I’m seeing.

I have personally wondered for a while if separating the sports program from academics might be best. The players would be known as a separate function from students and would merely be representive of the school in general, not students, but associates.

They would get no degrees, have rules for eligibility and paid to play. Their future would be in professional sports.

We’re halfway there anyway…

The Universities give the players a platform to showcase there talents. If it was not for the university where would some of these athletes be?

Like I said in my previous post it is just my opinion, and I personally don’t watch the games because of specific players, I watch the razorbacks.


Let me turn that around. You may have read something in the past week or two about the #NotNCAAProperty movement from some players in the tournament.

Let’s imagine that that movement picked up serious steam on the Gonzaga, UCLA, Houston and Baylor rosters and that those players refused to play in the Final Four unless Mark Emmert met with them to address their grievances.

Then Saturday afternoon and Monday night we’d have an empty court. The universities and the highly paid coaches are not performing in the tournament. The players are.

Let’s get back to your employer, or your employees if that’s the case. If your employer decides that you and everyone else who does the same job you do is only worth the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, you have the right to go find a job somewhere else that pays better. College athletes can’t do that, because the other 356 employers in that market are also limited to paying $7.25 an hour.

Maybe you’re the owner of Acme Widgets and you’re hellbent that you’re not going to pay anyone more than $7.25. Fine. You’ll lose everyone worth more than $7.25 and the people you get to replace them may not be worth even $7.25. And you sure can’t collude with every other widget maker to not pay anyone more than $7.25. That’s illegal, and that’s exactly what the Alston case is about.


So what’s the predicted end game here? And how can it keep recruiting relatively fair?

Will we finally have conferences based upon the level of support/payment/scholarship the universities can afford?



I don’t think anyone knows, Guy. But if the current structure is illegal, which is what the judge has ruled, then it’s gotta change and we figure out where it goes from here. It may not change much at all, or it might change immensely.

Sounds like you haven’t met many denizens of Alabama.

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Or watched the fat asses run to get ole St. Nicks autograph on their elephant head on “A” Day, lol.


Oh, they worship him. As long as he wins. He starts going 8-4/losing to Auburn regularly, they’ll turn on him so fast your head will spin. I don’t expect that to happen, but if it did…

All are interdependent. The school, coaches, players… They’re all necessary for college athletics to exist. However, the schools & coaches get hugely disproportionate amounts of the benefits. The athletes get grossly disproportionate shares. It’s just a matter of fixing the inequities.