CategoriesAntitrust & Trade Law
The summer of 2021 marked a major inflection point in the external governance of college sports after nearly half a century of federal and state governments taking a hands-off approach regarding the rights of college athletes. First, nearly all at once several states passed laws granting college athletes the right to endorse products. Next, in its first antitrust decision concerning the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) since 1984, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the NCAA’s longstanding restraints on providing unlimited educational benefits to college athletes violated federal antitrust law. Additionally, Congress began discussing the lack of medical benefits afforded to college athletes, holding hearings in which current and former college athletes testified regarding necessary baseline standards for health, and safety, and mental health resources for student athletes.
In light of these widespread external developments, questions now loom surrounding how collegiate athletics will function on an internal level. Building upon these recent state and federal developments to reform college sports and looking to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in NCAA v. Alston, this Article offers a roadmap for reimagining the internal governance structure of college athletics in the twenty-first century. In doing so, this Article proceeds in four main parts. First, Part I of this Article examines the history and rise of the NCAA as the premier governing body of intercollegiate sports in the United States. Next, Part II explores the evolving and widespread societal scrutiny of college athletics by looking to the five perspectives from which collegiate sports are most often criticized. Part III examines how recent congressional developments, state law initiatives, and the Alston decision require reimagining the internal governance structure currently in place in college athletics. Lastly, building upon the history of the NCAA model and its criticisms, and considering the recent regulatory and judicial developments that materialized in 2021, Part IV proposes a template for building a new governance model that, moving forward, will better protect and promote the rights of college athletes from an ethical, legal, and medical standpoint.