The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the NCAA in a long-running dispute over a cap on education-related gifts and benefits that schools may provide student-athletes.
The unanimous decision, upholding lower court rulings, says the cap on a relatively narrow list of pg education-related benefits -- such as scholarships for graduate school, computers, musical instruments, and tutoring expenses -- violates federal anti-trust law and must be lifted.
The legal victory for the athletes deals a blow to the NCAA's longstanding policy of strictly limiting compensation beyond free tuition, room and board, but stops short of a sweeping decision allowing salaries for college athletes.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the court, concluded "that relaxing these restrictions would not blur the distinction between college and professional sports and thus impair demand" among consumers, as argued by the NCAA.
"By permitting colleges and universities to offer enhanced education-related benefits, [the lower court's decision] may encourage scholastic achievement and allow student-athletes a measure of compensation more consistent with the value they bring to their schools," Gorsuch wrote.
"Still, some will see this as a poor substitute for fuller relief. At the same time, others will think the district court went too far by undervaluing the social benefits associated with amateur athletics," he continued. "For our part, though, we can only agree with the Ninth Circuit [US Court of Appeals]: 'The national debate about amateurism in college sports is important. But our task as appellate judges is not to resolve it.'"
The case is one of the biggest tests in decades for the NCAA and its limits on athlete compensation, and critics said it could begin to dramatically alter the nature of college sports.