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Lozano: Prepare to say adios to NCAA

The Supreme Court dealt the NCAA a crushing blow

Since their inception in 1906, the NCAA has been allowed to operate without significant intrusion into their business practices. The cornerstone of that business model has centered on not providing compensation to athletes who participate in organization-sponsored sporting events. 

Now the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the non-profit governing body that regulates intercollegiate athletics for many universities in the United States, may be on its deathbed.

A winning streak that has lasted more than a century and “amateurism” ended Monday. That’s when the Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston,  that the NCAA violates antitrust law when they impose caps on education-related benefits, including scholarships of student athletes.  


If that wasn’t enough of a blow, Justice Brett Kavanaugh jumped off the top rope and elbow dropped the fallen NCAA with a concurring opinion. He left open the possibility of future litigation. Kavanaugh even scolded the organization for anti-competitive practices.

NCAA business model questioned

“The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” Kavanaugh wrote. 

If there was any ambiguity with that statement, Kavanaugh expounded on that idea:

“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 and it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law,” he added.


Humility missing

In a complete absence of humility, the NCAA predictably issued a strange victory-claiming statement. That statement was akin to a baseball manager who blew a double-digit lead in the ninth saying, “On the positive side, we had a double-digit lead against the winning team.”

“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, consistent with the NCAA’s mission to support student-athletes,” the NCAA said in its statement.  “Even though the decision does not directly address name, image and likeness, the NCAA remains committed to supporting NIL benefits for student-athletes.

“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.”

While there are no untruths there, what the collegiate sports governing body conveniently ignored is that the Supreme Court rejected its legal arguments. The Justices’ ruling was forceful in stating that the NCAA is not a special entity worthy of any antitrust protection. They saw it similar to any other business, no more and no less. 

This ruling had to be a surprise to the NCAA, which hasn’t taken many losses. In one of the greatest examples ever of “be careful what you wish for,” the NCAA as Jay Bilas pointed out, petitioned the Court to grant cert and hear the case. And of course they did and ruled against the NCAA. 

NCAA hopes to work with Congress

Now they allude to working with Congress. The courts can’t help them protect the status quo, obviously. The NCAA formed political action committees and spent $750,000 to prevent student-athletes from receiving compensation.  Even athletic directors have their own political action committees. 

The NCAA has dragged its feet with name and likeness legislation. Individual states are fashioning their own legislation rather than wait for a uniform approach. Thus it appears as though the plans to ask Congress for help might be to no avail. 

The NCAA has lost control it held firmly for so long.

The lead has slipped away. Time is running out, and it does not appear as though they’ll get the ball back. The next big challenge isn’t going to be about compensation. The NCAA must now worry about schools defecting from the organization to start their own leagues with a non-exploitative business models.

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