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Supreme Court Unanimously Smacks Down NCAA Amateurism Argument

Wide shot of the the Bronco stadium with its blue turf. The stands are filled with fans.

The U.S.Supreme Court says NCAA rules stopping schools like Boise State from providing educational benefits to athletes violates federal antitrust laws.

Monday’s unanimous ruling doesn’t require schools or the NCAA to pay student athletes. It instead opens the door for schools to provide athletes additional educational benefits beyond scholarships — think computers, books and internships — and that's just for starters.

For years, the NCAA has prohibited any additional compensation to players in the name of amateurism, while raking in billions in revenue. Scholarships are currently limited to the cost of attendance.

The decision invalidates the NCAA's limitations, though college athletic conferences could still impose limits on member schools, according to the Associated Press.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court opinion, though a concurring opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh provided more fireworks.

"Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing to not pay their workers a fair market rate on their theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate," Kavanaugh wrote.

Boise State spokesman Joe Nickell said the department always prioritizes the student-athlete experience.

"As new legislation presents itself across the board, we will evaluate how we are able to positively impact the experience for our Bronco student-athletes," Nickell wrote.

The NCAA noted the ruling, "reaffirms the NCAA’s authority to adopt reasonable rules and repeatedly notes that the NCAA remains free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits, consistent with the NCAA’s mission to support student-athletes."

Allowing additional benefits for education is likely to impact recruiting similarly to when the NCAA allowed athletic scholarships to cover the full cost-of-attendance instead of just tuition in 2015. Some schools could offer more money than competitors depending on how they interpreted cost-of-attendance for individual schools.

Monday’s decision is different than the name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation rule expected from the NCAA later this week.

Boise State has already partnered with two outside groups to help its athletes take advantage of those expected new rules.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.