NCAA faces its long-overdue reckoning

West Virginia v Rutgers
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At a time when the NCAA is preparing for one of its signature annual high points, the NCAA could be on the brink of dealing with its biggest loss in years, if not ever.

Oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit led by former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston included questions from justices that suggest the NCAA finally may be facing its reckoning over the failure to compensate football players and other athletes for the billions in revenue they generate.

It’s an antitrust claim, alleging that the NCAA places illegal artificial on the ability of colleges to compete for players, limiting the total expense that any school will incur for its athletes. A federal appeals court previously ruled that the NCAA was not permitted to limit benefits to educational expenses only. Although the decision did not call for the payment of salaries, it opened the door for items like, via the New York Times, “musical instruments, scientific equipment, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic awards and internships.”

The NCAA’s best argument is that fans somehow value amateur status. That argument, frankly, is hogwash wrapped in bullspit.

“Consumers will likely come to view NCAA athletics as just another form of minor league sports,” the NCAA argued in written filings to the Supreme Court.

Actually, most consumers view NCAA sports like football and basketball as another form of MAJOR league sports, with the only difference being that the players aren’t fairly compensated for their abilities, risks, and sacrifices.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jeffrey Kessler, a long-time counsel for the NFL Players Association. Accounts from the oral argument show aggressive questioning of both sides, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh making the most spirited attack against the NCAA. Via Gabe Feldman, Kavanaugh asked whether the NCAA is using the notion of amateurism as “cover for exploitation of college athletes.” Also, Justice Clarence Thomas (who rarely poses questions to the lawyers during any oral arguments), asked whether the NCAA tries to limit compensation for coaches in the same way it tries to limit compensation for athletes, in the name of amateurism.

Added Kavanaugh, via Nicole Auerbach of TheAthletic.com, “It does seem . . . that schools are conspiring with competitors to pay no salaries to the workers who are making the schools billions of dollars on the theory that consumers want the schools to pay their workers nothing.”

Although many of fans will argue that the athletes should be happy with a “free education,” few would balk at the athletes getting a fair share of the revenue they generate. That’s ultimately what this is about, as it relates to college football — fairness and equity to players who have no choice (thanks in part to the inherently unfair three-year waiting period implemented by the NFL and NFLPA) but to play college football for peanuts in order to have a chance to make a lot more as a pro.

67 responses to “NCAA faces its long-overdue reckoning

  1. The NCAA is just another in a long line of American institutions who pee on your leg and tell you it’s raining all in the name of $$$.

  2. Unfair waiting period? Those kids would get killed in the pros. Football is not basketball. Put an 8 year old versus a 6 year old I’m flag and the 6 year old gets demolished. Same with putting young men on a football field with grown men. Nothing unfair about it at all.

  3. Well, let them get sponsors, etc. Also do the following:

    1) Players are ineligible for scholarships, living expenses, food/medical expenses, books, etc, if they have a sponsor. They are also responsible for paying for travel expenses.

    2) A player can sign stating they will NOT get paid/a sponsor during their time in college, and would remain eligible for scholarship, etc.

    3) At any point if a player receives money for anything like a sponsor, their scholarship will be canceled, etc, and the player immediately responsible for the pro-rated remainder of their tuition, lodging, fees, etc.

    4) A player *must* apply to the school and be accepted per normal admissions – they do not get to “work around” the system.

    Remember – scholarships, medical care, training, food, room, transportation, etc, all add up to “pay” for a player.

    As such, if they are getting paid by sponsors, etc, they can be just like the rest of the non-atheletes and pay their way with loans, academic scholarships/grants (if eligible), etc.

    NO DOUBLE DIPPING

  4. I always thought most of the players got a free education. That’s a pretty good salary if you know how much these universities are charging students.

  5. There is a lot of grey area but in the end, the athletes deserve the money a lot more than the NCAA does.

  6. “That’s ultimately what this is about, as it relates to college football — fairness and equity to players who have no choice (thanks in part to the inherently unfair three-year waiting period implemented by the NFL and NFLPA) but to play college football for peanuts in order to have a chance to make a lot more as a pro.”

    It’s not the NCAA’s fault that the union has collectively bargained away the chance for younger players to be in the NFL. Therefore, the fact that players have no other option than to play in the NCAA for 3 years isn’t relevant to the case against the NCAA. The fact that the colleges (most of the Power 5 ones anyway) make millions and conspire to not let the players make any money is what the case should be baased on.

  7. I’ve always considered college football to be minor league football. I think that by the 1960’s or early 70’s when the NFL took over as the preeminent form of football watched by America; the college game…while still entertaining was relegated to being the minor leagues. What else could it be? The good players go on to play in the NFL.

  8. Once they open the door to paying college athletes you will see numerous sports programs cut due to lack of funding. It’s economics 101.

  9. I agree that their argument is dumb.

    That said, I’m 100% against schools paying athletes for 2 reasons. 1 – how do you determine who gets paid what? What does the O-line make vs the QB? What about other sports? 2 – It becomes a recruiting tool. Oh, Alabama pays more than UNC, I’m going to commit to Alabama.

    What I do think is that players should 100% be able to profit off of their individual likeness. If a company wants to take the risk of sponsoring a 19 year old, that’s on them. If a company wants to pay a student athlete to come to an autograph signing, that’s on them. The players should definitely be able to make money in their private time.

  10. I have always wondered why someone doesn’t create a genuine amateur football league? Imagine the great athletes that couldn’t get into college? Plus, imagine them being able to play football and make money for endorsements and not worry about all of the academic stuff most of them don’t even care about? Will a Sociology degree get you a job you couldn’t obtain with no college degree at all? Not likely. If the NFL would create a true amateur feeder league it would go a long ways to busting up the NCAA cartel. But, since that won’t happen then the players deserve some cut of the profits.

  11. If Thomas and Kavanaugh are leaning toward the players, the NCAA is probably looking at a 9-0 decision in favor of the players.

  12. So the NCAA argument is how they think I view their product? How is that even an admissible argument in court? That doesn’t make sense. How the NCAA thinks we view their product is immaterial to what factually doing on. College athletics is a billion dollar industry the power at be thought they could simply exploit these kids for ever. Well that time is about to come to an end.

  13. Of course, cash consideration is given by way of attendance and all expenses, including the football team food program – has a value over $150k

  14. Then they have to pay women athletes the same amount. There go a ton of minor sports and scholarships. Me I don’t think sports belong in colleges anyway they don’t learn from them and that’s the reason for being there. Start a minor league system.

  15. The definition of professional is being paid to do a job. College programs are on record willing to pay recruits six figures to play football or basketball for them. These are professional athletes generating billions in revenue. Give them a cut of the TV and merchandise money and let them profit off their name.

  16. It is that term, “amateur athlete”, that the NCAA has used for decades in these battles. Give the players what they deserve.

  17. Just allow them to make money off their own name. Let them sell autographs and memorabilia, etc. This is pretty simple. The people who would make money can make it and schools don’t have to dish out cash to their backup punters who are getting a full ride.

  18. The NCAA gets their notion of amateurism from England of the 1800’s. When leisure time about due to labor saving devices both the workers and the land owners started participating in sports against each other. Of course because the workers were more fit they regularly beat the land owners. Because of this the land owners came up with rules saying anyone who worked for a living, drew a wage was a professional and anyone with inherited wealth was an amateur. That notion continues to this day in the NCAA

  19. “That said, I’m 100% against schools paying athletes for 2 reasons. 1 – how do you determine who gets paid what? What does the O-line make vs the QB? What about other sports? 2 – It becomes a recruiting tool. Oh, Alabama pays more than UNC, I’m going to commit to Alabama.

    What I do think is that players should 100% be able to profit off of their individual likeness.”

    Mostly agree but wouldn’t players profiting off their likeness still create a advantage for more prominent programs? A QB at Alabama could get bigger endorsements than a QB at UNC.

    I honestly don’t know what the solution is, but agree with a commenter above that I would rather the money go to the athletes versus NCAA.

  20. 18 year olds play in the NHL. A few could play in the NFL too. Orlando Pace was a solid 300 pounds in high school. Teams would sign a few high schoolers a year, but players union does not want more competition for spots on teams.

  21. Any athlete who plays any NCAA sport, regardless of if they are the star recruit or just a bench warmer, should get a free education. That’s just for starters. The athletes who educational institutions use to promote their schools or programs, or whose name or likeness earns revenue for the institution, should be entitled to additional compensation. This way, the athletes and schools both benefit, and everybody makes out.

  22. It is unfair to keep many college athletes in poverty. They should allow schools to give small amount like $3000 dollars a year, or at least sign autographs and work.

  23. @marthisdi, why all the rules on what the player can dobut none on the institution that is exploiting them? Who are fans tuning in to see? If this is really a non-profit organization and these truly are amateur student athletes than every cent they generated in profit should be funneled back into the school. If anyone at the university dips their hand in the pot or spends it on anything that doesn’t benefit the student body they should not only be fired but prosecuted for fraud against the state.

    You want to put all these rules on kids who put their bodies on the line and simply let the powerful get rich off their efforts. I don’t know how you justify such a thing. You hang onto some lie told to us for so long it has become part of your culture. This isn’t your H.S. program that sells candy bars to make ends meet. This is a billion dollar industry in which the few are getting rich on the efforts of the many.

  24. It is past time for these athletes to get paid. If you are the sole reason a product is worth billions of dollars, you should be compensated accordingly. Everywhere else in a capitalistic system works this way, other than the NCAA. It has, and always will be just a ploy for those at the top to make billions versus hundreds of millions if the players end up getting paid.

  25. If colleges had to pay the athletes then 80% of the teams go under. That said the NCAA doesn’t have any right preventing players from making money off their image such as signing endorsements or signing with agents.
    It’s a slippery slope that has to have a compromise from both sides if they want to keep college sports competitive. I think the main issue is to allow players to profit from their image, but still somehow maintain a competitive balance, which would mean keeping the boosters away from the kids and not allowing colleges to pay players anymore than scholarships.

  26. Create two tiers for every sport. The “We Will Pay You” tier and then the “We Will Give You a Scholarship” tier. Let schools decide in which pool they want to play and let high school athletes pick. Then we can go from there…

  27. The big football and mens basketball programs pay for all the other sports. You take that money away, you take away most of the other DIV 1/2/3 sports. And the scholarships in those programs. A lot of the DIV 1/2/3 football teams will go away as well due to less money.

    Those sports may still exist in schools… but they will be club level sports; students get in on their own and then tryout. The students pay for virtually everything and their tuition.

    The kids that will really lose; poor inner city kids. They will be required to pay their own way in many sports and even if they are lucky enough to get a scholarship, it will be a year to year scholarship; if they do not develop to the athletes they are projected to be it will not be renewed. (The 4 year scholarship will be a thing of the past.)

    Easy for the top athletes in football and basketball to demand pay… easy for former students to demand pay… they have nothing to lose. They will not be the one paying.

  28. No sympathy or remorse for the NCAA whatsoever. The writing has been on the wall for a couple decades.

    As with so entities in this country, they weren’t forward thinking enough to cut it off at the pass.

    The NFL should be terrified. This will eventually lead to the end of their free minor league. At least as they know it today.

  29. Paying college athletes will just increase tuitions for the normal students who actually want an education.

  30. I always thought most of the players got a free education. That’s a pretty good salary if you know how much these universities are charging students.
    ==========

    Half of them think they are going pro.

    The system is great for the half that know that isn’t true.

  31. I won’t bother watching College Football, as I don’t waste time with minor league baseball and the G-League in Basketball. Stars aside, it becomes low end pro sports, and I’d rather watch the big kids play. So go ahead, destroy another piece of the culture, destroy the educational opportunities that could REALLY change the trajectory of these kids lives. You’ll be crying for a long time after this idiot move.

    Money in a 19-YO kid is [very] temporary. Education is forever.

  32. A free education has value. If any other perks are allowed it better be tied in to the players “Grade point average
    ” after the diploma is earned.

  33. If you pay college athletes you can say goodbye to 95% of all women’s sports as well as most men’s sports. Division II and III ahtletics are gone as well. Then, what until the Title IV crowd gets involved. How about OSHA’s involvement, the IRS and don’t forget the unions that will immediately try to organize the athletes.

    Want to destroy college athletics? start paying the kids. That said, they deserve more than they currently receive, but it can’t be in the form of direct compensation or the Federal Government will come in with both feet and ruin everything.

  34. Welp one good thing could come of this … salary cap the schools so talent is more spread out instead of one school getting all the 5 star recruits

  35. so does this mean that all the athletes who play sports which LOSE $ for schools have to reimburse the schools?

  36. Pay them student wages. Also, needs to be a cap on coaches pay. Revenue needs to be shared amongst all athletic programs, not just football and basketball.

  37. napgamer says:
    March 31, 2021 at 12:18 pm
    Then they have to pay women athletes the same amount.
    =============================================================================
    Why would woman athletes get paid the same? It should be based upon the revenue that the particular sport brings in, not based upon gender. If UConn woman’s basketball creates more revenue than men’s, then by all means they should get paid more.

  38. They should also look into the fact that the NCAA calls themselves a “non-profit” organization, yet somehow they make a significant profit off of free labor.

    Here is the NCAA mission statement: As a non-profit organization, we put our money where our mission is: equipping student-athletes to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.

    The NCAA is the biggest scam artist in US history and I would love to see them get crushed!

  39. It’s called a free education. Athletes have many perks the average student doesn’t…including some assistant AD’s doing their work for them so they maintain eligibility.

  40. Just let the boosters give them money and don’t make a big deal about it, like they used to do

  41. No solution here, just a thought, if you pay football and basketball players you’ll have to pay both men and womens teams in all sports under Title 9? If so tuition will sky rocket! I live near Syracuse, tuition alone (without room and board) is already over $50,000 a year! Think Syracuse is going to drop football or basketball? LOL!

  42. The money making programs subsidize the programs that do not make money. Forcing them to pay will kill other sports and the opportunities that come with them. Be careful what you wish for.

  43. Why not give the players a flat rate stipend? Say about $5k a year, and let them sell autographs and image rights. They players get some money and the NCAA will still be coining it from the TV rights and so on.

  44. This is simple: College = School and Athletics is something you can do in school. It isn’t a job. By that logic, High School players should get a cut of tickets and concessions.

  45. napgamer says:
    March 31, 2021 at 12:18 pm
    Then they have to pay women athletes the same amount. There go a ton of minor sports and scholarships. Me I don’t think sports belong in colleges anyway they don’t learn from them and that’s the reason for being there. Start a minor league system.
    ———————————————————————————————
    I suppose you never played a sport. If so, you’d know about things like exercise, nutrition, responsibility, accountability and teamwork. Horrible things to learn about while in college, right?

  46. itsouryear says:
    March 31, 2021 at 12:06 pm
    Once they open the door to paying college athletes you will see numerous sports programs cut due to lack of funding. It’s economics 101.

    In 2016 the NCAA negotiated TV rights of $8.8 billion over eight years for the March Madness basketball competition. I think there’s enough money to go around.

  47. ghjjf says:
    March 31, 2021 at 12:40 pm
    Paying college athletes will just increase tuitions for the normal students who actually want an education.

    In 2016 the NCAA negotiated TV rights of $8.8 billion over eight years for the March Madness basketball competition. There’s plenty of money to go around.

  48. Reading some of these comments is twighlight zone inducing! So players who bring in all of the money, (men’s football and basketball), getting some of the money they produce is no fair because no one pays to watch most of these other sports? How is communism in sports fair to popular athletes and their respective sports?
    Title IX is a scam!

  49. As always, fans will end up paying for everything. The notion that “owners” or whoever is getting the money will give up part of what they make is hogwash. It never works that way.

  50. If the education is so valuable why isn’t there a single head coach working for a scholarship instead of a salary?

  51. At the very least, it’s quite an accomplishment to get Thomas to actually ask a question.

  52. And you don’t make money off these guys? Where does it start and end. This site should pay for mentioning the NCAA and players which it does………..

  53. Let these pro sports start their minor leagues for these high school grad athletes .
    The colleges should disband all inter-collegiate athletics and return to intramural athletics
    ( sports for students only ) true college sportsmanship .

  54. amateurism is an outdated concept that the NCAA is exploiting. The NCAA should be burned to the ground, and then the ashes shot into the sun.

  55. The bottom line is that, no matter how good (or not so good) a player, male or female, may be at any given sport, the NCAA sees itself as some sort of demigod, ruling over the lives, and more importantly financial status, of most all student athletes.
    They have been making bank, off of the good name, and back breaking labor, sweat, and tears off of the names, and images of these student athletes.
    it sounds to me like the NCAA has a good gig going. I’d equate it to slavery.
    Any future income generated by any student athlete can be PARTIALLY, but not TOTALLY attributed to the NCAA. Monies that could have been made, by a select few, if they could have went to a league (likely a minor league) can never be made up for.
    Those remaining will never make up for that time lost.
    I’m not saying that they need to make millions, just enough to buy a pizza or a tank of gas once in a while.

  56. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This will change the entire dynamics of college sports for every sport.
    1) Most non-revenue sports will go away. That’s tens of thousands of scholarship that both men and women won’t be getting.
    2) Most division 1 programs except for the real elite will be relegated to secondary status. This does not level the playing field, it makes schools like Alabama more dominant.
    3) There will be 16 & 17 year old high school athletes with agents, because when you’re dealing with contracts and pay, won’t they need representation so the schools don’t take advantage of them.
    4) Non preforming players will be cut from the team, shown the door. Why would schools pay them money of they are 3rd string, not producing. That money could be spent better.
    5) Instead of 100+ kids on scholarship on a team, there will be like 55 kids, so more scholarships cut.
    The list goes on and on. Decisions like this do not occur in a vaccuum.

  57. There’s so much wrapped up in this, and there’s no easy solution. Beyond “fair compensation” I really hate how the NCAA penalizes athletes who want to transfer schools. So a kid signs with College A, and in the offseason that coach leaves for a job at college B. Now that kid is stuck unless he sits out a year. The NCAA views the athletes with nothing but contempt.

    Ever hear or read stories from NFL players about their college experience? They miss most meal times because of mandatory practices or other football-related things, including mandatory study/tutor sessions. They can’t get a job, the coaches aren’t allowed to feed them, etc. So you have these athletes living on ramen and other super cheap food that’s just not good for them.

    How about relaxing some of that stuff – let ALL athletes get fed outside of regular cafeteria hours, give them a stipend for food, and let them transfer schools if they want. Hell, how about the kid who is promised a starting job (or it’s implied, as we all know it is) only to find that there are 7 guys in his position all competing for a chance to play. There are guys who can’t break through at a major program. Sometimes it’s about talent, sometimes not.

    As I said – there’s a lot more to all of this than just money.

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