NCAA May Be Facing An Existential Crisis After A Brutal Day In Court

NCAA logo on football field

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The NCAA has historically gone to great lengths to not let its student-athletes profit in the name of “amateurism,” but it also has a fairly rocky track record when it comes to defending that stance in court.

Fans of the NCAA Football franchise and other college sports video games learned that the hard way when former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon successfully sued the governing body after his name, image, and likeness was used in an EA Sports title without his consent.

However, that had nothing on the impact of another trial that unfolded in the Supreme Court in 2021, as the nine justices tore the NCAA a new one during oral arguments ahead of the landmark ruling that ushered in the NIL Era.

Now, it appears the NCAA has another headache on its hands courtesy of what’s currently unfolding in Pennsylvania.

According to Sportico, the U.S. Court of Appeals is currently hearing a case brought forward by former Villanova football player Trey Johnson that accuses the NCAA of illegally failing to designate student-athletes as employees, which could potentially be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

On Wednesday, the trio of Third Circuit judges assigned to the case peppered attorneys representing the NCAA with questions as they poked a number of holes into the arguments the organization is using in the hopes of preserving the status quo, and reporters covering the proceedings made it clear the panel does not seem to be buying into the legal team’s claims.

A ruling in the plaintiff’s favor (which could be appealed to the Supreme Court) could be a recipe for disaster for the NCAA, which boasted more than 520,000 student-athletes last year.

If the court ultimately rules student-athletes are, in fact, employees, the NCAA and its schools would likely be forced to pay the hundreds of thousands of players under its purview some sort of salary (which would likely be the federal minimum wage with eligibility for overtime).

That development would have an absolutely seismic impact on college sports, as it’s hard to imagine schools would be willing to support programs that aren’t deemed profitable.

Only time will tell how things will ultimately pan out, but this is certainly worth keeping a very close eye on.

Connor O'Toole avatar
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.