If you are a college sports fan, then you have undoubtedly heard the criticism about athlete compensation. College athletes don’t get paid, in spite of the fact that college sports are a multi-billion-dollar industry. Coaches, schools, and television networks make millions. Players receive a scholarship, and that is it. Scholarships are highly coveted, but well below the value a D1 basketball or football player generates. Many argue schools should pay them. The Supreme Court agrees … kind of.
The Supreme Court decided unanimously that the NCAA has no right to create nationwide limits on educational related benefits. What does this mean? Schools can offer recruits and current students more benefits than tuition, room, and board as long as those benefits were still educational. So, think about resources like laptops or specific equipment for certain majors which aren’t currently covered, or even graduate school and paid internships as the majority of athletes will not go pro.
It is important to note that this is not quite “pay for play.” The benefits still have to be related to education. However, that is broad enough to encompass many additions and a slippery enough slope to open the door to a full-on paid model. This is not lost on the NCAA, and given the opinions the Justices wrote in regard to this case, the NCAA can’t feel good about their chances if the Supreme Court ever gets to hear a case on it.
Justice Kavanaugh, a “conservative” appointment and sports fan himself was probably one of the main people the NCAA hoped to sway. He had this to say:
The bottom line is that the NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student-athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year. Those enormous sums of money flow to seemingly everyone except the student-athletes. College presidents, athletic directors, coaches, conference commissioners and NCAA executives take in six- and seven-figure salaries. Colleges build lavish new facilities. But the student athletes who generate the revenues, many of whom are African-American and from lower-income backgrounds, end up with little or nothing.
The court was limited by the case they chose to hear, and it was over educational benefits. However, the above opinion and others like it imply strongly that the sentiment of the court is that athletes should get paid, not just educational benefits.
It is worth noting that this year many athletes are going to be able for the first time to make money off of their image and likeness. Not compensation from their schools, but pay for endorsements, autographs, and advertisements … benefits professional athletes could pursue but college students had been banned from pursuing.
The decision of this case does not seem like a big deal on the surface. Students who are on full-ride scholarships get a few more benefits, but the potential scope of this decision is big enough to force the NCAA to change their model altogether.