Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian Blog

Compensation for Student Athletes Gaining Ground

Posted by Matt Schmidt | Mar 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its member universities rake in billions of dollars a year from its sports programs. Their coaches bring in millions in salary. The student athletes who make this all possible, on the other hand, make barely enough to get through school. Many must devote 60 hours a week to their sport, leaving little time for education. Health insurance is limited, many programs leaving an athlete who sacrificed her body for the school to fend for herself when eligibility is up.  Athletes must submit to the powers above, knowing the scholarship being held over their heads can be stripped at any time.

The NCAA argues the athletes are students, not employees, and are awarded ample compensation from the benefits of a free college education; it also argues that a pay scheme would disrupt the sanctity of the institution's amateurism (with the money being made, however, many wonder how the NCAA can say this with a straight face).  Others argue the NCAA and its institutions have colluded to limit the rights of what in any other industry would qualify as employees, violating employment and antitrust law. Both sides wonder what in the world a system where athletes were paid would look like or how it would work.

But the pay-to-play argument is gaining steam. Over the last few years, one group of students came that close to unionizing The 9th Circuit acknowledged in another case that the NCAA was violating antitrust laws (this was essentially a slap on the wrist, however, because the court also noted that the NCAA cured their otherwise illegal activity by allowing colleges to offer scholarships up to full cost of attendance). Though these cases have not yet turned amateur athletics on its head, these close calls have caused the NCAA to pay attention. As a result, it has provided a few more protections for its athletes--arguably, it is still not nearly enough.

In  Jenkins vs. NCAA, the plaintiffs recently overcame a motion to dismiss in a case that challenges the colleges' ability to conspire with each other over compensation. In other words, this is another claim arguing that the NCAA's policies violate antitrust laws. If the plaintiffs succeed, it could mean that each college and/or its affiliated conference could come up with their own compensation platforms, allowing student-athletes a freer market to choose the program that is right for them.

About the Author

Matt Schmidt

Matt graduated from the James E Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in passing the Arizona bar exam in 2010. Matt's primary interest in law focuses on general personal injury and insurance bad faith.


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