The Drake Group, the community of academics advocating for the reform of collegiate athletics, recent addresses the Alston decision and the potential impact upon Title IX:
“The Supreme Court on August 11, 2020, denied the motion by the NCAA and eleven conferences to stay the injunction entered in the Alston antitrust lawsuit. That injunction by the Northern District of California and upheld by the Ninth Circuit, permits schools to provide college athletes unlimited, education related benefits. Examples could include laptops; science equipment; musical instruments and other tangible items; travel and internship opportunities; graduate and vocational school tuition; and cash benefits of up to the current value of athletic awards available now that are estimated to be at least $5,600 that athletes would now be able to receive for academic achievements. These benefits may exceed the current NCAA cap on full cost of education for the class that brought the lawsuit – Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football and men’s and women’s basketball players. The judgment applies to just these three groups of athletes. However, while the ruling prohibits the NCAA from imposing caps on education related benefits, conferences are permitted to set their own limits. On August 12, the NCAA Division I Council revised its rules to comply with the injunction.
“Accordingly, certain college athletes can now receive vastly increased benefits as long as they are “related to education.” The Drake Group is concerned about gender equity in the distribution of these benefits, which may begin immediately to currently enrolled athletes and promised to prospective athletes during the recruitment process. Title IX requires that each institution distribute these benefits in a gender equitable manner. For example, if all football players on the team receive sophisticated laptop computers, then a proportional number of women athletes must receive the same or equivalent benefits. In order for this equitable distribution to occur, female athletes participating in sports other than other than basketball will need to benefit. The Drake Group calls upon the NCAA to immediately change its rules on non-countable aid, to allow all college athletes to receive the same benefits.
“To note, the NCAA has stated that it intends to file a writ for certiorari to challenge the merits of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Alston. The deadline for the filing of the petition is October 15, 2020. But the likelihood of the Supreme Court granting certiorari is slim and, even if it does, the case probably would not be resolved for a year. In the meantime, schools may provide and promise their athletes these virtually unlimited, increased benefits.
“Thus, The Drake Group believes it is essential for each FBS institution to fully account for and equally distribute these new benefits as required by Title IX.”