Miltenberg, Federico: “Supreme Court NCAA Decision Affects Gender Equality for Student Athletes and Coaches,” Sports Business Journal


The Supreme Court’s recent decision in NCAA v. Alston will lead to further disputes that will be resolved in the courts and may have a floodgate effect on litigation against the NCAA, colleges, universities, and related entities alike. Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, conceded that the impact of the decision will likely diminish the organization. The NCAA is merely whistling past the graveyard. In the opinion that Justice Gorsuch penned for the court, he articulated that the NCAA violated Section I of the Sherman Antitrust Act due to their agreed upon academic-related compensation for athletes. Importantly, athletes can now receive cash compensation of an amount no lower than $5,980 for academic or graduation achievements. With this decision, the Supreme Court paved the way to end the exploitation of college athletes. For the NCAA and its member universities, business as usual is over. The NCAA announced that student athletes will be permitted to benefit from their own name, image, and likeness, in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, as well as various emerging state laws around the country. Both the Supreme Court and the NCAA left it open to the individual athletic conferences and schools to interpret and implement limitations accordingly. The impact of this ruling on gender equality in the college campus setting will be significant and not just for the athletes but their coaches as well. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 provides that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Schools will undoubtedly make errors in their attempts to ensure that a female athlete that performs similarly both athletically and academically is compensated equally to her male comparator, and vice versa. Perhaps schools will implement a certain compensation structure where if a student achieves a certain grade point average, they will automatically receive a certain compensation award. Alternatively, schools could allocate a certain number of awards either per team or per gender. However, this may lead to issues where one gender is compensated in a substantially larger percentage in comparison to the other, or where larger teams suffer from only a small number of awards in comparison to smaller teams. Schools also may provide incentives for coaches with teams that perform well academically. However, schools will be challenged with ensuring they do so equitably among the genders in light of Title IX.

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