Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Audrey Anderson provided insight to Inside Higher Ed and the Bloomberg Law podcast discussing the Supreme Court’s decision to review a case challenging whether the NCAA “amateurism” rules that cap the amount and kind of benefits that student-athletes receive violate antitrust law. The Court will review a May 2020 ruling from the Ninth Circuit against the NCAA holding that the NCAA’s amateurism rules violate the Sherman Act under a “rule of reason” analysis. One outcome of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the student-athletes could be colleges and universities directing funds from expensive athletic facilities and coaching salaries into resources that more directly benefit students, which Audrey said may be a good thing.
However, the downside of a pro-athlete ruling could be the creation of a new avenue for boosters and businesses to influence which schools student-athletes choose to attend, which Audrey notes could be a threat to the amateurism model. For example, businesses could support internships for athletes under expanded financial aid rules wherein a student athlete makes massive amounts of money considered “related to education,” which would be very attractive to top athletes.
“It’s policing those things that makes everybody kind of anxious,” Audrey said for the Inside Higher Ed article. “Is there a way to open the back door to boosters paying for your student athletes… Then will student athletes start choosing schools based on that?”
As Audrey noted for the Bloomberg Law podcast, as long as there’s so much money in college athletics going to coaches and universities – and not the athletes – the NCAA will have to withstand the pressure from state legislatures and legal proceedings to allow students to benefit financially from their contributions.
The full article, “Supreme Court Takes on College Athlete Pay,” was published on December 17 by Inside Higher Ed and is available online. The full Bloomberg interview is available in the December 18 episode of the Bloomberg Law podcast, “High Court Will Consider Compensation for College Athletes.”