In a major decision for college athletics, the United States Supreme Court ruled today that the NCAA can’t block student-athletes from certain forms of education-related aid.
The decision concludes the high-profile case widely known as the Alston case, a civil suit which pitted former West Virginia University football player Shawne Alston and former Cal basketball player Justine Hartman against the NCAA.
Per NBC, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a lower court decision, ruling that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by limiting how much student-athletes could receive for a range of education-related expenses, including postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, and paid internships.
One very important distinction: the Supreme Court’s ruling covers only those specific education-related expenses. The ruling does not affect whether student-athletes can be directly paid for their names, images, and likenesses. The NCAA has committed to ‘modernizing’ its name, image, and likeness (or NIL) rules, but has not yet changed its rules to allow athletes to earn NIL money.
Multiple state governments, however, have passed laws allowing student-athletes to earn NIL money. That continues to set up a showdown where athletes could accept money and be legal under state law, but still risk a ban for violating NCAA rules. NIL modernization could allow student-athletes (including college swimmers) to accept prize money, sign endorsement deals, or make money through private lessons, swim camps, or other events without giving up their NCAA eligibility.