A panel of three judges on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday ruled unanimously against the NCAA in an antitrust lawsuit, saying the organization’s policies that prohibit student-athletes from being compensated are anticompetitive.
The decision means the NCAA must allow educational benefits and even cash awards for student-athletes, although it falls short of the push for college athletes to be paid for playing sports. The court also determined that it is reasonable for NCAA member institutions to offer student-athletes graduate school scholarships, study abroad opportunities, tutoring and equipment.
Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer who represented the student-athletes, said there will be a fairer system in place for Division I football and basketball players to receive education-related benefits if college sports return.
“Hopefully this will be extended to other college athletes as well,” Kessler said.
The ruling upheld that of U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in March 2019, which stated that the NCAA cannot limit education-related benefits student-athletes in FBS football and Division I men’s and women’s basketball can receive.
On April 28, the NCAA Board of Governors announced its support of rule changes that would allow all student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, though the athletes would still be unable to be paid by the universities themselves. Student-athletes would have to go through third parties to benefit — no schools, conferences or boosters allowed.
The NCAA can still appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy released a statement saying he hoped for a different ruling by the Ninth Circuit.
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