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Supreme Court Rules Against NCAA, Sides With Ex-Athletes In Compensation Case

The NCAA logo is seen on the basket stanchion at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The NCAA logo is seen on the basket stanchion at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that the NCAA can’t enforce rules limiting education-related benefits — like computers and paid internships — that colleges offer to student athletes.

The case doesn’t decide whether students can be paid salaries. Instead, the ruling will help determine whether schools decide to offer athletes tens of thousands of dollars in those benefits for things including tutoring, study abroad programs and graduate scholarships.

The high court agreed with a group of former college athletes that NCAA limits on the education-related benefits that colleges can offer athletes who play Division I basketball and football are unenforceable.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws,” which the court declined to grant.

Under current NCAA rules, students cannot be paid, and the scholarship money colleges can offer is capped at the cost of attending the school. The NCAA had defended its rules as necessary to preserve the amateur nature of college sports.

But the former athletes who brought the case, including former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, argued that the NCAA’s rules on education-related compensation were unfair and violate federal antitrust law designed to promote competition. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from enforcing those rules.

As a result of the ruling, the NCAA itself can’t bar schools from sweetening their offers to Division I basketball and football players with additional education-related benefits. But individual athletic conferences can still set limits if they choose. A lawyer for the former athletes had said before the ruling that he believed that if his clients won, “very many schools” would ultimately offer additional benefits.

Today on AirTalk, we learn more about the ruling and the consequences for NCAA athletes. Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.

With files from the Associated Press


Dan Murphy, ESPN staff writer and investigative reporter who has been following the story; he tweets @DanMurphyESPN

Marc Edelman, professor of law at Baruch College, City University of New York, where he specializes in sports law and antitrust law