Supreme Court questions amateurism in NCAA v. Alston

The US Supreme Court heard the NCAA v. Alston case on Wednesday. Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and SI's Pat Forde broke down the hearing and what we can expect moving forward.

Video Transcript

DAN WETZEL: NCAA V. Alston was before the Supreme Court Wednesday morning. And in a nutshell, this is basically, could you pay college athletes? Two takeaways. One is that most of the justices were not buying any of the NCAA'S arguments.

I mean, at one point, Seth Waxman, their attorney-- this was I think my favorite line of the whole one. If you allow-- this would be in parentheses, athletes to be paid, they will be spending even more time on athletics and even less on academics. That was their concern. You bubbled 132 men's and women's basketball teams far from campus for a month.

PAT FORDE: Yeah. For what purpose?

DAN WETZEL: Yeah. Justice Breyer, this is a tough case for me. It's a unique product and brings joy to a lot of people. I worry about the judges getting into the business of how amateur sports should be run. All fair.


DAN WETZEL: I am not one of these people who are going to tell you that if this goes down, it's going to be hearts and flowers, man. It is going to be a total mess. But that's America, baby.

PAT FORDE: The fact that it is before the Supreme Court tells you what a mess this has been and become. You know, that the NCAA has so completely failed to manage itself that we have them versus Alston in the Supreme Court and then we also have the NIL, you know, rodeo going on in Congress. Because the NCAA has been just completely sat on the sideline and said, we really can't do anything. Somebody come fix this for us, basically.

PETE THAMEL: Yeah. Picture a billion business and whoever is running it and however clunky and complicated it is, it's now under threat. Like, it's a billion business that's under threat because they couldn't manage and litigate it themselves.

Now, I always look to the root of why. Like, why did we get to this point? Why are Congress and politicians and judges determining the fate of college athletics? And it's because the people in charge of college athletics have either been too ambivalent or the process is too cumbersome to allow them to do anything.

So it's really kind of like a fascinating case study of just why we got to this point. And all I know is, it's not going to end well and it's not going to end clean. You might as well have tried to step up at a certain point and control it yourself. And they failed to do that.

DAN WETZEL: Yeah. You never want-- And we said this many times. You do not want the government running your business. I don't care if you run a hot dog cart on Fifth Avenue.

You also don't want a court doing it. And so you handle problems before, as best you can, it gets to this spot. You work to avoid it. What do they say? The best lawyers are the ones that you're never-- keep you out of ever going to court.

PAT FORDE: Yeah. Right.

DAN WETZEL: Well, there on all sorts of courts now. They're in all sorts of venues. Nobody took the lead. They held on to antiquated arguments.

I think they should have given the athletes name, image, and likeness early so that they don't get into a compensation situation. That's the third rail.

PAT FORDE: Yeah, right.

DAN WETZEL: Letting people make money. You know, letting Jalen Suggs make money because his TikTok goes viral in a celebratory thing. Or Paige Beckers can-- from UConn can clock product on her very popular Instagram page or throw up a GoFundMe or a Venmo and just make some money. Then you're not worrying about, how am I going to pay the field hockey player?

PAT FORDE: Yeah, right.

DAN WETZEL: And so they should have handled this, but they've held the wall so long and now the dam is ready to break. And it is a failure in not just Mark Emmert and not just this President or that, but almost every single person involved in college athletics that spent decades just trying to hold on to what they had and not looking as you're barreling off a cliff. How many disaster analogies could I bring up in one sentence? I believe we had a dam break and a cliff fall.

PAT FORDE: They all fit. They all work.