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Supreme Court rules 9-0 against NCAA in antitrust case; what’s next?

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Boston College Helmet

Major breaking news in the college sports world this morning: the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 against the NCAA in the long awaited NCAA v. Alston case.

Across the board, the Court made it clear that they are deeply skeptical of the NCAA’s current amateurism policies, paving the way for significant changes in the future of college athletics. The case specifically referred to conferences setting limits on player compensation and determined that this was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

While this case does not open the door (at least not immediately) to compensation outside of academic-related expenses, the general gist seems to be that according to the Court, setting a cap on academic-related compensation such as internships, work study programs, technology, etc. is a violation of the antitrust law.

SCOTUSBlog is the place to go for the more intricate legal analysis, but the bottom line is: the analysts at SCOTUSBlog believe this opens the door for colleges to have ‘bidding wars’ over ‘academic’ benefits such as paid internships. Once those kinds of benefits become unlimited, it seems like a fairly short bridge to the end of amateurism as we know it; it will be interesting to see how the power conferences react.

This is entirely separate from the name/image/likeness (NIL) conversations that are happening nationally right now, with several states implementing laws that allow student-athletes to be compensated for NIL starting on July 1, and the NCAA seeming to be moving in that path in general.

From a BC standpoint, Pat Kraft and BC have generally spoken positively about NIL reform and letting athletes be compensated in that way. However, BC was notably a lonely holdout when the power conferences voted to add cost-of-attendance stipends on top of academic scholarships back in 2015, with high-profile outlets like the New York Times highlighting BC’s rationale.

If power football conferences like the ACC start getting in to uncapped, benefits-related bidding wars, how does BC react? At the time of the 2015 vote, Brad Bates said BC’s point was to try to get people thinking about hitting the pause button on escalating bidding wars. However, despite the no vote, BC did ultimately add the stipends to student-athlete aid packages, and has continued to escalate investment in athletics programs and facilities to match what’s happening throughout the ACC and the Power Five.

Time will tell and we’ll be on the lookout for any response from the ACC and BC to this ruling. Stay tuned. One way or another, the NCAA and college athletics are going to be transformed in coming years.