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NCAA logo. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

In an otherwise narrow Supreme Court ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh may have the set the stage for upending the way the NCAA does business.

Monday’s 9-0 decision in favor of a group of former college athletes suing the NCAA means the organization can’t bar colleges and universities from offering Division I basketball and football players education-related benefits that extend beyond school tuition, like money for computers and tutoring, though it can still prevent schools from offering gifts unrelated to academics, like, say, a Lamborghini. The case did not involve determining whether student-athletes can receive salaries.

That said, Kavanaugh’s concurrence frees future plaintiffs up to challenge other athlete compensation rules on normal antitrust grounds, writes Sam Bowman, the director of competition at the International Center for Law and Economics. “After today’s decision, the NCAA’s remaining compensation rules should receive ordinary ‘rule of reason’ scrutiny under the antitrust laws,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Kavanaugh argued the NCAA’s “business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” noting that “all of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks,” referring to the NCAA’s stance that it’s seeking to preserve college sports’ amateur status. Gabe Feldman, a Tulane professor who specializes in sports law, tweeted that that statement “could upend the NCAA model.”

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