Since the inception of the National Collegiate Athletic Association over a century ago, student athletes have been prohibited from profiting off of their career on the assumption that it would put their ‘amatuer’ status in jeopardy. In light of a challenge to this restriction by the Northern District of California to make compensation less restrictive for student-athletes, the rule was reversed on June 21 — a move that could serve to level the playing field and attract top notch prospects to Ithaca.
The decision was made by the Supreme Court on the trial of the National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, which questioned the NCAA’s “student-athlete” designation and the organization’s resistance toward player compensation. The Court ruled that the NCAA rules regarding student-athletes’ compensation violate federal antitrust law. Now, all student athletes are eligible to receive compensation based on their name, image and likeness.
The argument that student-athletes be compensated for representing their school’s athletic program has come up in the past — with the latest flare up in 2014, when a class of student-athletes filed several antitrust complaints against the NCAA and 11 Division 1 conferences in district court. For the Ivy League, which does not offer athletic scholarships, the change could attract more athletes in high market sports. Rather than bank on athletic scholarships, they now have the freedom to make their own money while attending top-ranked universities.
While a few teams, such as Cornell’s Men’s and Women’s Hockey, show consistent elite level talent on a yearly basis, top prospects in highly covered sports such as football or basketball stray away from the Ivy League in favor of scholarship opportunities from schools with well-established athletic programs.
Beyond education, collegiate athletics is an opportunity for athletes to be seen by professional scouts, and many student-athletes treat their college choice as a business decision. One famous example is the Boston Celtics’ forward Grant Williams who decided to pass on the likes of Yale, Princeton and Harvard in favor of a scholarship opportunity at the University of Tennessee. He saw the highly competitive basketball program as an opportunity to progress his athletic career and capitalized, becoming the No. 22 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
Conferences without much athletic notoriety have struggled to convince highly touted high school prospects to sign on, especially if the school cannot offer a scholarship as compensation. However, one selling point for the Ivy League is its unique offer of an education from a multitude of nationally renowned schools. Knowing the unique opportunities the Ivy League offers players, coaches can now approach well-known high school athletes easier knowing monetary compensation no longer needs to be completely backed by the school.
I see the most recent change in NCAA policy as a huge win for both Cornell and the Ivy League. Generations of athletes have had to look over their higher education in the name of financial stability and professional career path. Now with the option to potentially begin a sponsored athletic career in college, young prospects can now consider more options ranging over all schools. I am hopeful that Cornell Athletics and their recruiting staff will see the Supreme Court’s ruling as an opportunity to make the future of the Red brighter than ever, and I look forward to seeing just how far collegiate athletes take their newfound freedom.