Supreme Court Decision Could Affect College
By Ben Trachtenberg
Yale Daily News (Yale U.)
(U-WIRE) NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Supreme Court action
could force the National Collegiate Athletic Association to change
policies on athletic scholarships, budgeting and athletic eligibility.
The Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in the
case of R. M. Smith v. National Collegiate Athletic Association,
which centers on whether the NCAA, as an institution separate
from its member colleges, receives federal funds in the form of
dues from its members.
Federal laws prohibiting discrimination against
women and minority students, known collectively as Title IX and
Title VII, apply to all recipients of federal education dollars.
If the court determines that the NCAA does receive
government money, it would be subject to Title IX and Title VII
regulations. Such regulations could affect budgets on men's and
women's sporting events, distribution of athletic scholarships
and standards for athletic eligibility.
Political Science Professor Rogers Smith said
that the precedent could lead to the Ivy League itself being held
to the federal anti-discrimination standards. The League's academic
index and budgeting policies would then be subject to government
"In so far as the members are subject to Title
IX restrictions ... and the league is organized and funded by
such member institutions," the league could be subject to federal
regulations, Smith said.
Still, Yale athletics would likely remain fairly
unchanged by the decision as Ivy League colleges do not award
athletic scholarships and Yale's football and basketball teams
rarely compete in NCAA championships.
"Yale's already subject to restrictions when
it receives federal funds." Smith said. "It has to comply with
Title IX" regardless of the status of the NCAA and the Ivy League.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on
Thursday that two students have already accused the NCAA of violating
their civil rights on the grounds that the NCAA's use of biased
standardized tests to determine athletic eligibility violates
Tai Kwan Cureton and Leatrice Shaw, two track
athletes from Philadelphia, say the NCAA unfairly prevents nonwhite
students from competing in intercollegiate athletics.
The case now before the Court arose when Renee
Smith, a former volleyball player at St. Bonaventure University,
attempted to play intercollegiate volleyball while in graduate
school. NCAA rules prohibit graduate students from playing on
varsity teams, but the organization occasionally grants exceptions.
Smith's case argues that the NCAA waives its restrictions more
often from men than for women, and therefore violates Title IX.
Smith's brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit claimed that the NCAA "arbitrarily denied her
the opportunity to play intercollegiate volleyball ... because
of her gender."
After a lower court dismissed the case, the appeals
court ruled that the NCAA must abide by Title IX because it receives
"The plain language of the [Title IX] statute
and regulation is quite broad and encompasses indirect recipients
of federal funds," the appeals court decision said.
The NCAA asked the Supreme Court to review the
case, and in October the court agreed to do so.
Title IX litigation has prompted changes at athletic
departments across the country. In an effort to create parity
in budgets for men's and women's athletics, colleges have used
a variety of strategies -- including starting new women's teams,
upgrading women's club teams to varsity status, increasing funding
to women's varsity teams, decreasing funding for men's teams and
abolishing men's teams in unprofitable sports such as wrestling
and water polo.
Trachtenberg, Ben. "Supreme Court decision could affect college athletics." Yale Daily News. 26 Jan 1999.