It happened. An event previously thought impossible by many college sports purists suddenly occurred with a sweeping motion from the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Nearly a century of debate has ended with overwhelming results for a nation that loves the college sport more than anyone else in the world.
In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the SCOTUS decided in favor of the athletes and against the NCAA, how antitrust laws deal with “amateurism in sport” and whether they apply to a government agency that has declared itself to be “non-profit”.
Previously, the NCAA had myriad restrictions on student athletes seeking income for their likeness or seeking benefits outside of educational scholarships. With effect from June 21, 2021, this behavior was declared a violation of basic human privileges; and therefore according to the Federal Cartel Act.
Student-athletes can no longer be penalized for simply asking for a slice of the huge financial pie the NCAA makes annually. We will no longer see such great players as Reggie Bush being publicly humiliated for accepting payments that are not tied to his scholarship. The playing field has been leveled between universities and players.
What happened to him and so many others is a shame on ethics. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony echoed like a sonic boom from a high-performance fighter jet.
“The NCAA’s business model would be downright illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
For those in need of a refresher, here is the life of college athletes until a few years ago. As a college athlete, you cannot accept payments for anything unrelated to your scholarship. Not a penny.
Autographs, clothing, and other marketing opportunities were strictly taboo unless conducted without financial considerations. Universities could not offer additional cash flows, financial benefits, or anything else not directly related to education – ie, tuition fees, meal plans, room and board, books, etc. Any violation of these rules has dire consequences.
(Though that hasn’t stopped universities from trying over the years.)
Before we go out there and say, “Well, they should just get a job,” the NCAA culture frowned upon that student athletes practice anything but their respective sport. Her life consisted of xyz sports and study around the clock, with little to no time to realistically work in a part-time job for a decent wage. Remember, scholarships are just that – scholarships.
You don’t pay for everyday life, no matter how much money appears on paper. Coaches will receive tens of millions of dollars for their players’ efforts. And the NCAA would literally generate billions of dollars from March Madness, College Bowl Games, baseball tournaments, softball, the list goes on and on.
Also, while the players were viewed as “amateur athletes”, essentially a scholarship – in this particular case a truly glorious contract – required them to complete their college careers with the awarding institution.
Worst of all, there was no legal protection to prevent universities from withdrawing their offerings if players were injured or other serious life events occurred. The counterpoint to this was the official “red shirt” system granted on a case-by-case basis by the NCAA. Many other “shirts” are also available with every university.
Anyone who considered switching, be it within the conference or within the same area, would lose eligibility for an amount of x semesters. That depended on exactly where the athlete was going, the rules between the conferences and divisions DI through DIII each have their own provisions. However, the players were expected to stay exactly where they are. As if they had signed a professional contract.
In the meantime, coaches could jump from school to school with no consequences as long as the acquiring university agreed to buy out their contract. Oh, but what if the coach who recruited xyz players changed caps and the players wanted to stay with that coach? “Bad luck,” said the NCAA.
Then the transfer portal was introduced in 2019 after decades of intense pressure to give these players more control and freedom over their personal situation. Especially in the scenarios mentioned in the previous paragraph. Recently, most conferences have removed the requirement to skip a semester after the transfer. It all turned out to be far too late for the NCAA to turn around and save grace or dignity.
The SCOTUS simply called the NCAA out on their lies and bogus arguments that never provided answers as to why student athletes could be treated so differently – let alone should.
Where the actual court case is fairly straightforward and not specifically aimed at players who earn salaries, that figurative door has been kicked in with a thunderous crash. Now it is only a matter of time before scholarships or financial assistance include actual salaries or other cash benefits. A path is paved for endless changes that must be made by the NCAA based solely on legal requirements.
The ramifications of this court ruling will not stay within the NCAA. Even the most humble of fans will see the meaning that comes with it. Every professional team sports league has a gigantic impact.
Especially the NFL.
As opposed to the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS or really any major professional team sports league in the world; the NFL does not have a designated development league. No, instead, their replacement was almost always the NCAA. A single source opportunity for the NFL with the best football prospect imaginable.
Each athlete must spend a minimum of three years outside of high school and use all of their college eligibility before they are considered eligible to be drafted. Of course, once approved by the league, a highly talented athlete could choose to apply early for the NFL draft, and there is also the amendment draft. The opportunities for players to reach the NFL are down a one-way street.
From that moment on, the NCAA serves as the NFL’s development league. Also for free. The NFL has no financial stake in the “nonprofit” NCAA for obvious reasons.
Consider this ideology at risk.
Many athletes want to get into the NFL as soon as possible because once their talent is recognized, they see the immediate potential for a big payday. A payday they couldn’t imagine before in college football. Not just in terms of monetary salaries, but endorsements, merchandising, etc. All of this is now possible for current and future college stars.
There is no more rush to earn or pursue financial benefits. They can bide their time, maximize their earnings, and really think about what’s best for them. It will have a huge impact on the process of explaining the design.
Do you know what always made sense? A development league for the NFL to evaluate and train their next generation of players. Or a partnership with another soccer league i.e. the returning XFL and the Spring League. However, for various reasons, the NFL has refused to try again after NFL Europe was canceled.
Given that student athletes can be legally paid for their services and will seek such compensation in the future, there are no reasons not to have such a league. Aside from the fact that the league doesn’t want to spend extra money building leagues compared to any other professional team sports league in the United States and Canada.
Now the NFL has to prepare for a much smaller pool of draft declarations each year. Especially from the major programs of conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, etc. Players within these top-rated DI programs can realistically begin to expect funding that is on par with the NFL in terms of advertising and merchandising opportunities. Some schools in these conferences alone make more money a year than a few NFL franchises anyway.
The dream of playing in the NFL will always be a major force considered by star recruits across the country. However, the opportunity to generate income for their performance just got so much shorter.
Why rush and sign up for the NFL draft when you can now make money playing for a college football team and graduating at the same time? They will finally have access to income as they continue their studies and education. Soccer (and Xyz-Sport) will really be her job during her studies. Finally, compensation for the athletes directly responsible for the hundreds of billions of dollars the NCAA made.
With fewer prospects available, it takes more time, thought, and patience to assess who is ready for the NFL. Use this hypothetical development league to rate current free agents, both veterans and undrafted, as well as designate injured players for duties like everyone else in the professional sports world.
Literally an opportunity to play football eight to twelve months a year is right in front of the 32 owners. All money spent on the foundation will be in three years, max.Money well spent I would say.
It really is time for the NFL to move on from its outdated way of thinking and open doors for expansion outside of the 32 major franchises. This doesn’t include their ridiculous efforts to open an active franchise (or two) in London, England. Rather, take a look at what’s happening to the NCAA and prepare for the very near future.
Because whether they like it or not, changes are coming. And they come in abundance.