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Between the U.S. Supreme Court allowing collegiate athletes to receive more educational benefits and upcoming rules letting athletes profit off their name, image and likeness, many questions loom about their impact on Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa.
Here are some answers:
What did the Alston case decide?
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in NCAA v. Alston that the NCAA’s restrictions on educational benefits for athletes violated federal antitrust laws.
Now, college athletes can receive up to $5,980 in educational benefits from their school and complete paid internships.
The $5,980 figure matches how much athletes can receive for athletic achievement through items like championship rings or trophies.
Joshua Gordon, a senior instructor of sports business at the University of Oregon, said he doesn’t view the $5,980 as permanent, though.
“I would expect change to come,” Gordon said. “My sense is they gave them some instruction so that they could go back to a lower court to get further clarification on some of the details.”
When do the Alston changes go into effect?
The ruling is effective immediately.
However, it may take time for athletics departments to determine how to best offer “educational benefits” to its athletes.
UNI athletics director David Harris said Tuesday it’s “yet to be seen” how UNI will react to the new benefits.
“That’s something that we’re going to continue to evaluate here in the upcoming months,” Harris told The Gazette.
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz told The Gazette Monday “there's a lot of ambiguity right now” following the Alston decision.
Which schools are most likely to benefit from the Alston changes?
It’s unclear which specific schools will benefit the most yet, but Gordon said certain traits will set some athletics departments apart from others.
“If you’re somebody that has resources, one approach might be to outspend everyone,” Gordon said. “If you don’t, you’re going to try to get creative with what that looks like. If you’re really good, you have resources and you do things creatively.”
The allowance of more benefits for athletes comes as many schools wrestle with budget challenges because of COVID-19.
The University of Iowa gave its athletics department a $50 million internal loan to help with the department’s budget deficit, which at one point was projected to be $75 million.
“Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, they have to decide, ‘Geez, can we afford to do that?’” said Matt Mitten, the executive director of Marquette University’s National Sports Law Institute, following the Supreme Court ruling.
UNI’s Harris expects to experience some “financial pressure” from the Alston ruling.
“Some universities are going to be in a better position to provide some things than others,” Harris said. “Sometimes you can decide that there are certain things you can do and certain things you can’t do.”
What long-term consequences does the Alston ruling have?
Many sports law experts have drawn attention to language in Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion about broader antitrust issues in the NCAA.
“The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” Kavanaugh said.
The Trump-appointed associate justice compared the NCAA’s larger restriction of paying athletes to illegal practices in other industries.
“Movie studios cannot collude to slash benefits to camera crews to kindle a ‘spirit of amateurism’ in Hollywood,” Kavanaugh said.
Jeffrey Mishkin, a lawyer working with the NCAA, told USA Today he doubts “you can make very much of that concurrence” because the other eight justices were not part of the concurring opinion.
But others, like Gordon at Oregon and Mitten at Marquette, said Kavanaugh’s words issue a “strong signal” for those considering future antitrust lawsuits.
“That’s pretty much an invitation to plaintiffs’ lawyers to run out and file a lawsuit and say, ‘Hey — NCAA rules that limit the compensation not related to education — that’s also an antitrust violation,” Mitten said.
Are the Alston case and changing rules around name, image and likeness connected?
The NCAA v. Alston case specifically pertains to athletes’ educational benefits and does not affect the name, image and likeness changes also happening right now.
Both changes give athletes more freedom than the NCAA previously allowed, though.
“We are definitely getting into a new age of athletes’ rights,” said Mark Conrad, the director of Fordham University’s sports business program, on Monday.
Many states have passed NIL laws to enable athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness as early as July 1. What’s the status of NIL legislation in Iowa?
An NIL bill did not survive one of the funnel deadlines in the Iowa 2021 legislative session despite some support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
The bill also failed in the 2020 legislative session.
The NCAA is expected to enact a temporary rule allowing schools like Iowa or Iowa State that don’t have state NIL laws to create their own policies, according to reports from USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
What is Iowa doing about NIL?
The Hawkeyes expanded their partnership with INFLCR Friday to create their “FLIGHT” program.
It will give athletes “the tools and knowledge to build their personal brands” and therefore profit off their name, image and likeness, athletics director Gary Barta said in a news release Friday.
INFLCR’s system lets compliance staffers track athletes’ NIL activity as well.
Iowa already partnered with INFLCR to give athletes easy access to photos taken by athletics department photographers.
Barta told The Gazette this spring Iowa was considering companies, including INFLCR, to partner with on NIL services.
“We are thrilled to expand our relationship and give all of our student-athletes the opportunity to understand their NIL rights and receive training and resources to enhance their NIL potential,” Barta said in the news release.
What does Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz have to say about the Alston ruling and NIL changes?
Ferentz told The Gazette Monday he viewed the Alston and NIL changes as a “positive” for the sport.
“It's very clear with NIL and all that kind of stuff we're in a real period of change,” Ferentz said. “I think it's for the most part pretty healthy.”
He believes time management will be a challenge for athletes balancing team activities, classes and now NIL opportunities.
“This is going to be one more thing to try to factor in, and I’ve got a feeling it may be a little bit more attractive than maybe a rhetoric class or Western civilization,” Ferentz told reporters Tuesday.
How is UNI approaching NIL?
Harris said UNI is “doing everything that we can” to ensure athletes can “have every opportunity” to profit off NIL.
“We recognize that this is something that’s going to be important to them,” said Harris, who has been a part of the NCAA’s NIL discussions as a member of the Division I Council. “It’s something that, in many ways, is long overdue.”
He sees it as a way for athletes to benefit financially without costing the athletics department. It’s possible for NIL to have an indirect cost for UNI, though, as donors support athletes’ NIL endeavors.
“That may impact money that they are donating to the university,” Harris said. “There’s only a set amount of money that those people are going to have to be able to give every year.”
UNI still is doing its “due diligence” before agreeing to a contract with an NIL service provider like INFLCR or Opendorse, Harris said.
“You’re trying to figure out what is it that you feel like you’re going to need,” Harris said, “because the needs of Northern Iowa can be very different from the needs of a Power Five school.”
Gazette reporter Leah Vann contributed to this report.
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