As of this writing, it has been over 850 days since the UConn women’s basketball team has lost a game. When the Huskies last tasted defeat (in an overtime thriller to Stanford on November 17, 2014), football players at Northwestern University were pursuing their rights to collectively bargain after a ruling by the NLRB regional director in Chicago held they were statutory employees. While the undefeated nature of women’s basketball in Storrs, CT has been a constant, the NLRB changed the game for Northwestern football players by declining to assert jurisdiction. However, there remains a feeling in certain quarters of college sports that some form of pay to student-athletes is inevitable.
My colleague, Tyrone Thomas was quoted in the Law360 article, Attorneys React to NCAA Student-Athlete Pay Ruling, in which he analyzes the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to strike down the NCAA’s ban on paying student-athletes and outlines the positive implications of the decision for the NCAA. The article offers expert insight from various attorneys on the significance of the ruling.
Tyrone Thomas was also quoted in the BloombergBusiness article, NCAA Athletes May Face Long Next Yard in Bid for Free-Market Pay, in which he explains the ruling’s impact on efforts to eliminate limits on compensation for college athletes. In the aftermath of the ruling, the article examines potential damages and the precedent set for related cases such as compensation for former athletes and women basketball players.
In another Law360 article, NCAA Scores Big at 9th Cir. In Amateur Sports Fight, Tyrone Thomas contextualizes the latest “loss” for the NCAA regarding the compensation of student-athletes as a much anticipated shift in the NCAA’s student-athlete model. The article outlines the significance of the amateur classification of college athletes to the changing economics of college sports.
In a mild surprise given the current constitution of the Board (read – majority appointed by President Obama), the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction in ruling on the petition of Northwestern University’s scholarship football players to unionize. However, in a display of special teams not seen on a football field in Evanston, Illinois since the days of John Kidd, the NLRB reached its decision without determining if scholarship players were “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act. Even with this limitation, it is clear competitive balance considerations for NCAA Division I sports has received great deference as a policy matter in a legal dispute.
The advent of a playoff system in Division I FBS college football is not the only new change in intercollegiate athletics. After the most active summer in the history of college sports, the following events will have a large effect on compliance going forward: