In a unanimous opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that the National Collegiate Athletic Association cannot strictly limit certain benefits for student-athletes as a means of protecting their amateur status.
The high court agreed 9-0 that college athletes should be able to be compensated for education-related expenses. The NCAA argued it's a blow to the heart of college athletics.
“For more than a hundred years, the distinct character of college sports has been that it's played by students who are amateurs, which is to say that they are not paid for their play,” NCAA attorney Seth Waxman argued before the court.
Under the new ruling, the NCAA cannot limit additional education-related expenses like computers, science equipment and musical instruments. A lower court decision affirming the NCAA’s ability to limit cash payments to student athlete’s education-related expenses was not appealed to the Supreme Court.
“The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” justice Brett Kavanaugh said. “All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks.”
“The NCAA is big business built on the backs of student-athletes who are, in a sense, compensated, but well below what a free-market would allow,” Oklahoma sports agent and attorney Kelli Masters said.
While Monday's ruling focused on education-related expenses, Masters said that the court implied it's open to more.
“That’s a signal from the Supreme Court that we’re ready to take on some of these regulations that are so prohibitive,” Masters said.
“Like our peers, we have monitored it closely and will be prepared for the next steps,” OU Athletics said in a statement. “We are excited about our ability to provide more opportunities for student-athletes.”
An Oklahoma State University spokesman said their legal council is also reviewing the ruling.
Earlier this month, Oklahoma became the 18th state to allow college athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness, a change that has yet to be implemented.