NCAA Sports

NCAA will ask Supreme Court to take case about benefits that college athletes can receive

Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Published 7:23 p.m. ET July 6, 2020 | Updated 7:38 a.m. ET July 7, 2020

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Sports Pulse: The NCAA is taking steps towards allowing players to finally make some money USA TODAY

The NCAA on Monday said it will ask the Supreme Court to take up a case in which a district judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the NCAA cannot have association-wide limits on education-related benefits that college athletes can receive.

The NCAA, along with its 11 major-conference co-defendants, made the disclosure in a filing that asks the 9th Circuit to stay an injunction issued in March 2019 by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken. Wilken’s injunction is set to take effect soon after the 9th Circuit formally mandates that it go forward, a step that is scheduled Wednesday.

While Monday’s filing is not the NCAA’s formal petition to the high court — that will not be due until Oct. 15 — it provides the contours of the association’s arguments for why the justices should hear the case and overturn the decisions made so far. The NCAA contends that the 9th Circuit’s decision conflicts with decisions of the Supreme Court and other federal appellate courts and deals with “an important question of law.”

The NCAA could be headed to the Supreme Court.

The NCAA could be headed to the Supreme Court. (Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

The case was brought on behalf of plaintiffs led by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston. Among the items Wilken said those athletes may receive were scholarships to complete undergraduate or graduate degrees at any school. The judge also appeared to open the possibility of athletes being able to receive cash or cash-equivalent awards based on academics or graduation, albeit under some constraints.

However, the appellate panel of Sidney R. Thomas, Ronald M. Gould and Milan D. Smith Jr. declined to broaden the ruling, as the plaintiffs had requested, leaving intact the NCAA’s limits on compensation not connected to education.

The NCAA maintains that if the 9th Circuit’s ruling stands, “The NCAA and its member schools and conferences will no longer have the flexibility to adopt what in their judgment are appropriate and nationally uniform eligibility rules to preserve the traditional amateur character of college sports.

“Instead, they … face an unending string of litigation that will not only transfer substantial control over intercollegiate athletics away from those with experience and expertise in the field, but also reduce the funds available to provide opportunities and services to student-athletes.”

The NCAA already is facing a new antitrust case concerning benefits for athletes.

With regard to conflicts with prior Supreme Court rulings, the NCAA mainly points to the high court’s decision in NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, a case relating to control of football television rights that the high court decided in 1984.  The NCAA lost that case, but – as it has in many other legal filings over the years – pointed Monday to language from that ruling that says “NCAA rules that prohibit student-athletes from being eligible if they are paid to play are essential if (the NCAA’s) ‘product’—an amateur intercollegiate sports league—is to be available at all.”

Wilken and the 9th Circuit have viewed that language as a type of legal commentary that does not constitute binding precedent.

As for conflicts with rulings of other federal appeals courts, the NCAA maintains that other courts have dismissed antitrust challenges to the association’s limits on athlete compensation without undertaking the detailed level of analysis in which the 9th Circuit and Wilken engaged in this case. The NCAA argues that “the decision here entrenches that division” in legal approach, so there is reason for the Supreme Court to step in.

The NCAA also maintains that the case merits the Supreme Court’s attention because “intercollegiate athletics as overseen by the NCAA is a major feature of American life. … And each year, millions of fellow students, alumni, faculty, and other fans watch NCAA competitions, including March Madness and football bowl games, either in person or through regional and national broadcasts. For decades, a hallmark of these competitions has been what Board of Regents called ‘a revered tradition of amateurism,’ one that ‘adds richness and diversity to intercollegiate athletics.’ “

The NCAA maintains that decision in Board of Regents requires that it be given “ample latitude” to maintain the tradition of amateurism and “this latitude includes leeway for (the NCAA) to decide what rules preserve and promote amateurism, while accounting for the ever-evolving circumstances in which schools and student-athletes participate in intercollegiate athletics.”   

No. 1: John Calipari, Kentucky: $8,158,000 – In June 2019, Calipari and the school signed a new 10-year contract. His basic pay from UK this season is the $8 million that had been planned under his previous terms, and it is set to remain unchanged for 2020-21. But then it’s scheduled to increase to $8.5 million a year for three years and to $9 million for each of the final four years. If Kentucky were to fire Calipari without cause this April, he would be owed more than $60 million, subject to his duty to mitigate by finding subsequent employment.No. 2: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke: $7,256,924 -- Because Duke is a private school, Krzyzewski’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. Duke’s return stated that $1,267,962 of Krzyzewski’s total had been reported as deferred compensation on prior years’ returns, but it provided no further details about when that money was accrued.No. 3: Mick Cronin, UCLA: $5,500,000 – Hired away from Cincinnati last April, Cronin is getting $3.5 million in basic annual pay this season – and he received a $2 million signing bonus. He made just less than $2.25 million from Cincinnati last season, and he owed that school $1 million for terminating his contract there. His pay from UCLA is scheduled to increase by $100,000 annually.No. 4: Rick Barnes, Tennessee: $4,700,000 – After the 2017-18 season, Barnes got a new six-year contract that included a $1 million raise to $3.25 million. After last season, UCLA made him an offer, but the $5 million buyout he would have owed Tennessee helped keep him in Knoxville – that and another renegotiation with UT that added $1.45 million more to his total for this season. In addition, he is set to receive $250,000 increases annually.No. 5: Chris Beard, Texas Tech: $4,443,000 – Beard is a long, long way from where he was for the 2015-16 season: coaching Arkansas-Little Rock and making $260,000. Two seasons ago, he led Texas Tech to it first NCAA tournament Elite Eight; he was rewarded with a new contract that included a $1.3 million raise to $2.8 million. Last season, the Red Raiders advanced to the NCAA title game, and Beard got another new deal that included a $1.4 million raise. He also reported nearly $250,000 in outside income.No. 6: Jay Wright, Villanova: $4,410,304 -- Because Villanova is a private school, Wright’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. The school reported that $4.25 million was from base compensation. For the 2016 calendar year, the school reported Wright’s base compensation at a little more than $3.5 million. For 2015, it was reported at just over $2.5 million.No. 7: Tom Izzo, Michigan State: $4,191,070 – Izzo signed a new contract in April 2019 that isn’t changing his pay much now, but is set to have a major impact in two years. The deal added a $4 million, one-time payment “in recognition of his long service to the University” that will become due if he is the Spartans’ head coach through April 30, 2022. He has been in the job since 1995-96. If he retires before the trigger date, he’d get an pro-rated amount based on his service time from May 1, 2018 through the retirement date. Whenever he retires, he is set to be offered a five-year contract to work in Michigan State’s athletics department at $250,000 a year.No. 8: Roy Williams, North Carolina: $4,102,409 – Williams is receiving previously scheduled increases in his pay from the university and from his personal contracts with UNC’s multimedia and marketing rights partner Learfield and from Nike. The increases total just under $175,000.No. 9: Chris Mack, Louisville: $4,067,494 – Mack’s pay from the university is unchanged from last season. His first report of outside income while at Louisville shows $60,000. He is scheduled to get a $250,000 increase on April 1, 2021, but he will get the increase this April if the Cardinals advance to the NCAA tournament round of 16. During the 2017 calendar year – his final full year at Xavier – Mack made nearly $2.25 million, including bonuses, according to the private school’s most recently available tax records.No. 10: Bill Self, Kansas: $3,985,857 -- Self’s compensation from the university is unchanged from last season. His most recent self-reported outside income amount -- $104,000 – was his lowest in at least 10 years. His previous low was $175,000 in 2016-17. Under one of two retention-pay agreements he has with Kansas, he is being credited with $1.5 million each March 31 from 2019 through 2022. But the money does not vest or become payable unless he remains coach on March 31, 2022, or his employment ends before then.Bob Huggins, West Virginia: $3,965,000 -- Huggins’ contract is set for him to coach through the 2021-22 season, then move into five years of paid emeritus status. His basic pay from the school is scheduled to increase by $100,000 each year. His deal also calls for WVU’s athletics department to make a $25,000 donation to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment, in the coach’s honor, anytime WVU wins a regular season game against Kansas.No. 12: Buzz Williams, Texas A&M: $3,843,182 -- After five seasons at Virginia Tech, including an appearance in the NCAA tournament round of 16 last season, Williams departed for College Station and a six-year contract that gave him an immediate $800,000 pay increase. He is scheduled to get further raises of $100,000 annually. In addition, the maximum amount of bonus money he could get in a season went from $290,000 at Virginia Tech to $850,000. Also part of his new deal is private aircraft time for personal use.No. 13: Bruce Pearl, Auburn: $3,840,366 – Auburn advanced to the Final Four for the first time last season, and Pearl was rewarded with a new five-year contract that included a $1.2 million pay increase. His compensation is set to rise by $125,000 annually, and the school is paying the annual premium on a $3 million term life insurance policy. Among his perks are four tickets to each football bowl game in which Auburn plays.No. 14: Larry Krystkowiak, Utah: $3,762,876 – In terms of recurring annual pay, Krystkowiak remains the highest-paid men’s basketball coach at a Pac-12 Conference public school. But after leading by almost $800,000 over Oregon’s Dana Altman last season, he’s now about $250,000 ahead of UCLA’s newly hired Mick Cronin, whose basic annual pay this season is $3.5 million. According to Krystkowiak’s contract, $15,000 of his pay each year is designated as being “for his use on a vacation for him and his family.”No. 15: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: $3,600,000 – Working under a seven-year, rolling contract, Marshall’s $3.5 million in annual pay from the school is not scheduled to increase until after 2021-22 season. If the school wants to fire him without cause, it would owe him a $15 million buyout. According to information provided by the school, his $183,000 in bonuses for the 2018-19 season included $50,000 from the consideration that the school received when it switched apparel providers from Nike to Under Armour.No. 16: Jamie Dixon, TCU: $3,423,401 -- Because TCU is a private school, Dixon’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. TCU hired Dixon in March 2016, so this is first time the school has reported his compensation for a full year.No. 17: Scott Drew, Baylor: $3,308,435 - Because Baylor is a private school, Drew’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. The return also said he received just over $5,000 in apparel from Nike. The amount reported as base compensation was just under $3 million and represented an increase of about $200,000 over the base amount reported for 2016.No. 18: Tony Bennett, Virginia: $3,307,500 – The Cavaliers won their first NCAA championship last season and Bennett received a two-year contract extension. So, how is he making less this season than he did last season, when he made $4.15 million, not including $1.25 million in incentive bonuses? Last year, he qualified for a $1 million retention payment, and, according to the school’s announcement of his new agreement, he turned down a pay raise larger than the 5% annual increase he is guaranteed. If he remains at U-Va., he would get retention payments of $400,000 in 2021; $1 million in 2023 and $400,000 in 2025.

No. 18: Tony Bennett, Virginia: $3,307,500 – The Cavaliers won their first NCAA championship last season and Bennett received a two-year contract extension. So, how is he making less this season than he did last season, when he made $4.15 million, not including $1.25 million in incentive bonuses? Last year, he qualified for a $1 million retention payment, and, according to the school’s announcement of his new agreement, he turned down a pay raise larger than the 5% annual increase he is guaranteed. If he remains at U-Va., he would get retention payments of $400,000 in 2021; $1 million in 2023 and $400,000 in 2025. Amber Searls, USA TODAY Sports

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No. 19 : Shaka Smart, Texas: $3,300,989 – Smart’s pay is scheduled to increase by $100,000 each year under a deal that is set to run through April 5, 2023 and carries a buyout that will be $10.5 million on April 1. Since going 11-7 in Big 12 play in Smart’s first season in Austin (2015-16), the Longhorns are 29-43 in conference regular season games and have not finished above .500 in conference play for a season.No. 20 (tie): Lon Kruger, Oklahoma: $3,300,000 – After last season, Kruger’s agreement was extended by one year for the third time in the past four years. He’s under contract through June 30, 2023. But his basic annual financial terms were unchanged. He got the $100,000 annual pay increase called for under his previous deal, and he is scheduled to continue getting $100,000 increases each year. The buyout he would be owed if OU chose to go in another direction is among the lowest for a coach at a Power Five public school: $2.925 million as of April 1.No. 20 (tie): Archie Miller, Indiana: $3,300,000 – Miller is completing the third year of a seven-year contract that is set to include a $50,000 increase every year. In an amendment to the deal after last season, IU agreed to allocate $100,000 for an annual supplemental compensation pool for Miller’s assistants. Miller can get a bonus of $125,000 each year based on the team’s NCAA Academic Progress Rate. That is one of the more lucrative academically based bonuses for a Power Five public-school men’s basketball head coach – and he’s achieved it in each of his first two years with the Hoosiers.No. 22: Sean Miller, Arizona: $3,247,534 – Miller’s basic compensation for this season is $2.8 million. But in case his employment is terminated without cause or because of disability, he has become entitled to 29,267 units of a publicly traded limited partnership held by the University of Arizona Foundation on behalf of the university’s athletics department. Absent Miller’s termination for either of those reasons, the cash value of the units won’t become payable unless he is Arizona’s coach on May 31, 2022. As of March 9, 2020, the units were worth $447,534.No. 23: Tom Crean, Georgia: $3,200,000 – Crean’s compensation is unchanged from last season, which was his first at Georgia – and it is scheduled to remain unchanged throughout a deal that is set to run through April 30, 2024. While he has not yet had great success on the court, Georgia has had two of its top five average home attendance figures for a season with Crean on the sideline.No. 24: Mark Few, Gonzaga: $3,191,368 -- Because Gonzaga is a private school, Few’s total is the one reported on the school’s most recently available federal income tax return, which covers pay for the 2017 calendar year, including benefits and bonuses. More than half of Few’s total -- $1,562,275 --- was reported as bonus pay. Gonzaga was an NCAA tournament finalist in 2017. The return stated only that Few, like 10 other school employees, received “non-fixed” amounts at the discretion of the president or board of trustees and “based upon accomplishment of key departmental objectives.” A school spokesman declined to elaborate.No. 25: Dana Altman, Oregon: $3,100,000 – Altman received a three-year contract extension after last season that added $100,000 to the $200,000 increase he already had been scheduled to get for this season. He’s now set for a raise of $225,000 next season and then increases of $300,000 and $250,000 in the following two seasons. His perks continue to include, upon presentation of proper receipts, up to $25,000 a year to reimburse him for travel expenses by him to visit friends or relatives, travel expenses by him to have relatives or friends visit, or travel expenses by him to have friends or relatives attend Oregon athletic events.

No. 25: Dana Altman, Oregon: $3,100,000 – Altman received a three-year contract extension after last season that added $100,000 to the $200,000 increase he already had been scheduled to get for this season. He’s now set for a raise of $225,000 next season and then increases of $300,000 and $250,000 in the following two seasons. His perks continue to include, upon presentation of proper receipts, up to $25,000 a year to reimburse him for travel expenses by him to visit friends or relatives, travel expenses by him to have relatives or friends visit, or travel expenses by him to have friends or relatives attend Oregon athletic events. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports

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No. 26: Chris Holtmann, Ohio State: $3,082,663 – Last season, Holtmann led the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament round of 32 for the second time in as many seasons at the school. He received a 3% merit increase to his base salary after last season, bringing it to nearly $581,000. The remainder of his annual compensation package remained unchanged.No. 27: Frank Martin, South Carolina, $3,050,000 – Martin’s compensation moved above $3 million this season due to the latest annual $100,000 increase he is getting under a deal that is set to run through March 31, 2023. If the Gamecocks play in the NCAA tournament this year, in 2021 or in 2022, another $50,000 would be added to the increase for the following season.No. 28: Matt Painter, Purdue, $3,025,000 – Under an amendment in 2018, Painter’s contract became a five-year, rolling deal as of July 1, 2019. But the amount of his compensation for the 2022-23 season and beyond was left to be determined. The contract states that “from time to time as agreed by the Parties, and in any event not later than June 1, 2022, Purdue will invite the Coach to engage in negotiations” to determine future pay. After such an invitation is made, the parties are to “negotiate in good faith for a period of up to 60 days to reach agreement” on the matter.No. 29: Mark Turgeon, Maryland: $3,015,508 – Turgeon’s original contract was scheduled to run from May 2011 through May 2019. It was never amended, although replaced in July 2016 by an agreement that is set to expire in May 2023 and also never has been amended. But both deals included guarantees of annual raises that, over the past six years, have ended up moving Turgeon’s annual pay from just over $2 million to just over $3 million.

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