The NCAA filed a petition Wednesday morning that asks the U.S. Supreme Court to press pause on allowing college athletes to receive an expanded number of education-related benefits.
In March 2019, a federal judge ruled that the NCAA's restrictions on what schools can provide to student-athletes violate antitrust laws. As part of that ruling, Judge Claudia Wilken ordered that schools should be allowed to provide an unlimited number of benefits to college athletes as long as those benefits are related to education. The NCAA appealed that decision in circuit court and lost earlier this year. Wednesday's filing indicates that the NCAA intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as well.
The NCAA and its member schools are facing an onslaught of challenges to its amateurism rules in the court system, from state and federal lawmakers, and from a budding strike orchestrated by Pac-12 football players.
This particular legal battle began in 2014 when former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston filed a lawsuit against the NCAA. Alston and his attorneys argued that NCAA rules that place any limit on compensation that schools could offer to athletes violated antitrust law. Wilken's decision -- if it is not changed on appeal -- will allow schools to spend an unlimited amount of money to provide their athletes with education-related items such as laptops, science equipment, instruments for music lessons and potentially some monetary rewards for good grades.
"I think they're trying to put off the inevitable," said Jeffrey Kessler, the lead plaintiffs' attorney in the case. "They keep losing and they keep trying to prevent athletes from getting these benefits. Sooner or later the athletes will get these benefits and the world will move forward. They need to accept that reality."
The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment. When their circuit court appeal was denied in May, NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said they had hoped for a different conclusion, but "will continue to review the opinion and determine our next steps."
While the NCAA has yet to formally appeal to the Supreme Court in this case, Wednesday's filing is a request that the highest court in the nation stay Wilken's ruling, a move that would keep the current NCAA rules in place at least temporarily. If the Supreme Court denies the motion to stay, NCAA member schools will be allowed to start offering unlimited educational benefits to their athletes immediately.
The NCAA has attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court on similar cases in the past, including a suit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. The justices rejected the NCAA's request to hear an appeal in that case.