The Southeastern Conference filed an amicus brief last week in support of the NCAA in its ongoing attempt to prevent college athletes from being recognized as employees of the schools they attend.
The NCAA is a defendant, along with Villanova and other universities, in Johnson v. NCAA, a case originally brought by current and former varsity athletes in which they say they should qualify as employees under Fair Labor Standards Act.
The conference argued that participating in college sports is not considered work under the law, schools are not employers, and athletes should not be paid.
“Such participation should be classified as an extracurricular educational activity to be administered and conducted in a manner consistent with each institution’s broader educational mission and policies,” the SEC wrote in its brief. “Not like an employer-employee relationship between the institution and the participants that requires mandatory compensation.”
The SEC said in a statement to Athleticism Monday that he “joined more than a dozen educational organizations, including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the NCAA in urging the court not to not radically alter the existing law by treating student-athletes as employees of their universities.
“To do so, the SEC told the court, would be contrary to the spirit and purpose of the law. “Congress, the courts and other federal agencies have confirmed that student-athletes are not employees “Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the brief states, seeking reversal of a trial judge’s decision,” the SEC said.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals will determine in Johnson whether the athletes can be classified as employees under the FLSA after a judge refused to grant the NCAA’s motion to dismiss the case last fall.
The SEC is not a party to the lawsuit, nor any of its members. He filed the brief to offer a “further and alternative basis” for the Third Circuit to overturn the district court’s decision, he wrote, because he viewed the case as a “legal matter of interest and of considerable importance to the Conference and its member institutions”.
Administrators at all levels of college athletics have been following this case closely because of both its efforts to dismantle the amateur model, but also its timing. Almost exactly a year ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA’s attempts to cap education benefits for athletes violated antitrust law. The high court ruled 9-0 against the NCAA, and while the decision itself was rather narrow – the NCAA could still restrict non-educational benefits – most treated it as a warning sign things to come.
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