On Monday (June 21), the US Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling against the NCAA in the case of “NCAA vs. Alston.”  This ruling addresses benefits for athletes that are related to education, but it did not specifically address the issue of Name, Image and Likeness or direct payments to athletes.

The official Supreme Court opinion is 40 pages long.  I haven’t read all of it.  As I scroll through comments on Twitter or other social media, some folks are predicting the death of the NCAA.

A summary article on the USA Today website indicates that this ruling “…specifically challenged the association’s ability to have national limits on benefits for athletes that are related to education, but more broadly had raised doubts about its ability to limit benefits at all.”

In it’s own statement regarding SCOTUS decision, the NCAA claims that “While today’s decision preserves the lower court ruling, it also reaffirms the NCAA’s authority to adopt reasonable rules and repeatedly notes that the NCAA remains free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits…”

In thinking about yesterday’s ruling, the predominant thought I have is that this decision seems to create more questions than it answers.

While I think most of us can agree that this ruling is focused on NCAA Division I sports and the athletes that compete in those “high profile” sports, this ruling simply refers to “the NCAA.”  I haven’t seen anything that distinguishes between Divisions I, II, and III.

A few examples of my questions are:

  • Does this eventually mean that athletes will be able to be “paid” by their schools?
  • If so, how will athletic departments balance their budgets (or least try to)?  Will they drop sports programs?  Will coaches accept reduced salaries so their players can benefit?
  • OR, will head coaches be given a total budget that they must manage to cover not only their assistant coaches but also the athletes on their teams?  (Will athletes be treated as employees of that coach or team rather than of the athletic department?  Will athletic teams be treated akin to subcontractors on a building project??)
  • Will athletes need to pay taxes on those increased benefits/payments?
  • Will NCAA Division II schools be allowed to offer multi-year scholarships like Division I?
  • Will NCAA Division III athletes now be able to receive athletic scholarships?
  • Could this ruling eventually also impact the NAIA or the NJCAA, which also currently offer athletic scholarships but have limits on those scholarships?

I realize that a few of my questions above may seem a bit “out there”, but it remains to be seen how this all turns out.  We’ll provide updates for you as we learn more.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, questions, opinions about this ruling, leave your comments below and I’ll address them directly or in a future blog post.

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