The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a powerful force in shaping the intercollegiate athletic programs of some 1200 public and private colleges. Courts have recognized the NCAA as an entity that serves the important and admirable functions of maintaining the amateur status of intercollegiate athletics and the integrity of the educational process for the student-athlete, while providing a fair and equitable competitive environment. Most of the NCAA's rules and regulations are promulgated to promote and maintain these goals. Nevertheless, both student-athletes and coaches have challenged NCAA rules in the courts, claiming that certain rules discriminate on the basis of sex, race, and disability or that the rules place an unreasonable restraint on trade. Courts have struggled with how to apply the laws of the business world as well as civil rights laws to the organization. Two recent decisions have shed some light on the NCAA's status with regard to the reach of federal regulation. In Law v. NCAA, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an NCAA rule that restricted the salary of certain Division I basketball coaches violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Supreme Court denied certiorari, and the controversy has ended with the NCAA paying 54.5 million dollars to the 2000 coaches who made up the plaintiff class. NCAA v. Smith involved both Sherman Antitrust and Title IX Claims. The plaintiff, a female student-athlete, challenged an NCAA Bylaw that prohibited her from playing college varsity volleyball as a graduate student. The Bylaw, she claimed, violated both the Sherman Antitrust Act and Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972. The Supreme Court denied certiorari on Smith's antitrust claim and held that the NCAA was not subject to Title IX on the theories presented by Smith because the NCAA is not a recipient of federal funds within the meaning of Title IX. Despite the apparent victory for the NCAA on the Title IX claim, substantial questions about the NCAA's status as a recipient of financial funds and its required compliance with Title IX and other antidiscrimination laws remain. The decision of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Law v. NCAA and that of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Smith v. NCAA follow previous Supreme Court and federal court decisions in applying antitrust law and analysis to NCAA rules and clarify the Sherman Act's relationship to the NCAA. The Supreme Court's decision in NCAA v. Smith, however, leaves several questions unresolved and unclear regarding Title IX's application to NCAA rules. This Article will discuss the recent antitrust challenges to NCAA rules as well as recent claims that NCAA rules violate civil rights laws. It will focus on how the decisions of the courts of appeals in Smith v. NCAA and Law v. NCAA, with the benefit of the Supreme Court's decision in NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma, illustrate the boundaries of NCAA role making within the constraints of the Sherman Act. It will discuss the Supreme Court's Title IX analysis in Smith, the unclear precedent on which the decision rests, and will develop theories for holding the NCAA accountable under federal antidiscrimination laws.
Stephanie M. Greene,
Regulating the NCAA: Making the Calls under the Sherman Antitrust Act and Title IX,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol52/iss1/5