In a major court decision Monday, the United States Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, which could allow student-athletes to receive more pay.
The listed plaintiff in the case is a familiar one to West Virginia fans as it is former WVU running back Shawne Alston who played for the Mountaineers from 2009-12.
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the court with a critical concurring opinion from Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Gorsuch said that the NCAA is violating the Sherman Act which prohibits contracts, combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade or commerce.
“The NCAA contends that allowing schools to provide in-kind educational benefits will pose a problem,” Gorsuch wrote. “This relief focuses on allowing schools to offer scholarships for graduate degrees or vocational school and to pay for things like computers and tutoring."
Gorsuch also recognized one of the NCAA’s complaints that schools would utilize education benefits illegally.
"But the NCAA fears schools might exploit this authority to give student-athletes 'luxury cars to get to class' and other unnecessary or inordinately valuable items only nominally related to education," Gorsuch wrote.
In Kavanaugh’s opinion, the NCAA has acted "above the law" with its actions against student-athletes.
“To be sure, the NCAA and its member colleges maintain important traditions that have become part of the fabric of America,” Kavanaugh wrote. “But those traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated."
"Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate," Kavanaugh wrote. "And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law."
With this decision by the Supreme Court, it could provide college athletes further opportunity to challenge the NCAA’s overall model. From there, schools may pay student-athletes an unlimited amount as long as it remains connected to their education such as tutoring, books, room and board, etc.
NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement following the court ruling.
“Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes,” Emmert said in a statement. “Additionally, we remain committed to working with Congress to chart a path forward, which is a point the Supreme Court expressly stated in its ruling.”
This is also a unique time as many states have passed laws that will allow student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness starting July 1.