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.