The NCAA got handed a mammoth loss Monday when all nine Supreme Court justices sided with former college players in an ongoing dispute about player compensations.
Justices on both sides of the aisle, who rarely agree to anything, were unanimous on one core issue: The NCAA sucks and the system is broken. In his concurring opinion on the decision Justice Kavanaugh wrote the following:
“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.”
In closing he added “the NCAA is not above the law.” It was a harder-line opinion than that of Justice Gorsuch, who wrote on behalf of the court, but the result is the same: The NCAA as we know it will be forced to change.
It’s unclear what that system looks like at this time. There is virtually no way the NCAA can move past the SCOTUS ruling with “business as usual.” Players will have to be compensated beyond the paltry stipends and scholarships the NCAA has used for 115 year as a way to avoid paying players.
The decision could have wide-ranging results not just inside of collegiate athletics, but amateurism in sports as a whole. The NCAA attempted to walk back their adherence to not paying athletes in 2019 by allowing for likeness rights to be sold, but as Alex Kirshner for Slate pointed out, the NCAA were firmly against players making money from their talent.
That is the association’s ultimate fear, as the NCAA has made clear many times. As it said when announcing in 2019 that it would consider changes to rules governing name, image, and likeness payments, the NCAA “will not consider any concepts that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports,” lest it ever lead to “any contemplation of pay-for-play.”
That ultimate fear has now been realized. Things will change, and college athletics won’t be the same. It’s about time.