Federal Judge Rules NCAA Can't Limit Compensation Related to Education

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 9, 2019

FILE - In this March 21, 2013, file photo taken with a fisheye lens, the NCAA logo is displayed at mid-court before Albany's practice for a second-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia. A judge has ruled against the NCAA in a federal antitrust lawsuit, saying football and basketball players should be permitted to receive more compensation from schools but only if the benefits are tied to education. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled Friday the NCAA cannot place limits on student-athlete benefits and compensation related to education, per ESPN News Services.

Examples of additional benefits and compensation outside undergraduate scholarships include money for postgraduate studies and school supplies.

However, the plaintiffs in the Alston case (named after West Virginia football player Shawne Alston) were hoping for further changes. Per ESPN:

Plaintiffs had asked the judge to lift all NCAA caps on compensation and to allow schools to provide benefits beyond a scholarship to college athletes. The goal was to create a free market, where conferences set rules for compensating athletes, but this ruling still allows the NCAA to prohibit cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses.

Alston brought the claim against the NCAA and the 11 Division I-FBS conferences. His case has merged with others, including that of ex-Clemson football player Martin Jenkins.

The calls for the NCAA to pay student-athletes have only gotten louder in recent history, none more so than this year when Duke superstar forward Zion Williamson suffered a scary knee injury that thankfully turned out to be a sprain.

Williamson is the massive favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and if he had suffered a more serious injury such as a torn ACL, then he would have been in jeopardy of losing out on millions while playing as an amateur for no pay.

After the injury, numerous people came out in support of Williamson, including Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young:

Nancy Skinner, who is the majority whip in the California state Senate, has introduced a bill that could help athletes receive compensation. She explained the concept in a Feb. 26 Washington Post article:

Under [Senate Bill 206], college athletes in California would finally be able to receive compensation for their work via corporate sponsorship deals—much like Olympic athletes are allowed to do. Under my bill, if Williamson played at UCLA, the University of Southern California or another major California school, he would be allowed to sign a basketball shoe contract with Nike or Under Armour that likely would be quite lucrative. (A Forbes contributor recently estimated that a shoe deal for Williamson could be worth up to $10.5 million a year.) And so if he were to suffer a career-ending injury in college, he would not be left empty-handed.

That could certainly help, as would allowing athletes to use their name, image and likeness to earn money, via autograph or memorabilia sessions for example.

The bottom line is that scholarship money alone doesn't help some athletes survive and live a healthy existence. In 2014, current Brooklyn Nets (and former UConn) guard Shabazz Napier explained about he couldn't afford to eat some nights while in school:

The NCAA swiftly enacted new rules that "Division I student-athletes can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation."

Still, it's concerning that rule wasn't in place until five years ago. Simply put, much more work needs to be done to take care of student-athletes and their ability to be compensated.

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