Breaking (from) Board

Putting "Student" in "Student-Athlete" NCAA Basketball Transfer Regulations

As the business of Division I College Basketball balloons to massive levels, criticism of restrictive NCAA practices that prevent players from benefiting from the fruits of their play have become increasingly loud, as evident by calls to compensate college athletes and eliminate the “one and done” rule. Yet despite growing unrest, courts, including the Seventh Circuit, continue to latch on to antiquated notions of preserving “amateurism” in order to maintain the status quo of college basketball and the parties that benefit from nonreform. What has emerged is a unique system in which the NCAA emphasizes the importance of the “student” athlete but places restrictions on Division I basketball players—such as their ability to freely transfer between institutions and be immediately able to compete—that don’t conflate with this idea or match the rules governing their non-athlete peers. Although problematic on their face, such restrictions become increasingly troublesome in cases like that of John Vassar, where pressure on programs to succeed results in coaches aggressively encouraging student-athletes to leave programs, but restrictions on eligibility limit a player’s ability to find a suitable landing spot. This Note advocates for attempting to cure the injustices inherent in the Division I College Basketball regulatory model by exposing NCAA rules such as the year-in-residence requirement to a more in-depth rule of reason analysis, instead of simply granting such regulations a “procompetitve presumption” based in decades-old Supreme Court dicta. Engaging in a more searching antitrust analysis based in data and case specific factual and legal arguments—as demonstrated in the Ninth Circuit—could reveal the possibility that, on the balance, less restrictive regulatory solutions exist that might facilitate change in the face of the NCAA’s reluctance to adapt to the realities of the modern Division I Basketball world.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.