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Higher Ed Associations Back NCAA on Supreme Court Case

February 9, 2021

The American Council on Education and 10 other associations representing higher education interests filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday in support of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s rule-making autonomy. The move came ahead of the court’s review of a case about compensation for athletes, according to an ACE press release.

The NCAA asked the court to review and uphold its restrictions on financial aid and other education-related payments for college athletes after a California federal appeals court judge determined last year that the rules were anticompetitive, limited athletes' college choices and violated federal antitrust law. Some legal experts believe the Supreme Court review will have broader implications for the NCAA’s amateurism model, through which it has been able to maintain rules for athlete pay to distinguish college from professional sports.

Eliminating restrictions on athlete financial aid “threatens an unwarranted transformation of intercollegiate athletics that is unwanted by their member institutions,” said the brief filed by ACE and other higher ed associations, such as the Association of American Universities, the National Association of College and University Business Officers and NASPA -- Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. College sports officials should be able to set unique competition rules because they have considerations aside from profit margins, including academic programming and compliance with gender equity laws, the brief said.

“First and foremost, universities are not commercial, profit-seeking entities,” the brief said. “Any analysis that views the NCAA’s (and the Conferences’) decisions about financial constraints on student-athletes in purely revenue-maximizing terms … is misplaced.”

The associations also take issue with “judicial micromanagement” over the rules that the NCAA sets for its member institutions and athletes. The brief argued that the California judge’s ruling is “overriding” the NCAA’s expertise on education and its members’ voting powers. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments about the issue March 31.

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