U.S. Supreme Court NCAA Ruling Sets Stage For Future Legal Battles In College Athletics

Jun 23, 2021

The NCAA national headquarters located in downtown Indianapolis.
Credit Samantha Horton/IPB News

The landscape of collegiate amateur sports is changing with the most recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. The NCAA is facing increasing pressure to change policies following the court’s unanimous decision Monday that the Indianapolis-based organization is violating antitrust laws and could change the competitive field of college recruitment.

The NCAA will need to draft policy to set parameters as to what is considered an educational expense.

Kelleigh Fagan is a college sports lawyer with Indianapolis law firm Church Church Hittle + Antrim. She said in response to those parameters, school athletic departments will then have to carefully craft their policies to reflect any changes.

“It is going to allow schools to potentially offer student athletes certain educational benefits that they couldn't before – like postgraduate internships or graduate school-related expenses,” Fagan said. “And so that could provide more opportunities for sports, and for recruits, and for college students.” 

The decision now sets the stage for student athletes to profit off their name, image, likeness – or NIL.

While the narrow Supreme Court decision is focused on educational benefits, it gives greater legitimacy to the idea that student athletes should be able to profit off their NIL.

Fagan said the landscape of college athletics will become even more complicated in about a week, when laws will go into effect in some states to will allow just that.

“So you're certainly gonna see that unequal playing field, potentially, some states that are subject to NCAA rules,” Fagan said. “Whether they change between now and July 1, some states that have a state law, or schools that have state law that they have to comply with.”

The NCAA is pushing for federal legislation to settle the issue once and for all.

Contact reporter Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.