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4 ways Supreme Court ruling changes playing field for college athletes, recruits

Court clears way for expanded menu of academic benefits. But paydays await some athletes who can cash in on image, lawyer says.

PHOENIX — College athletes and new recruits could all benefit from the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling that opens the door to more compensation for competitors in NCAA sports.

But new laws in more than 20 states, including Arizona, could deliver the first paychecks for athletes in the billion-dollar college sports business.

"I think it's only fair the students get some portion of the massive amounts of money," said Krizia Verplancke, a former college athlete who's now an attorney at Davis Miles McGuire Gardner in Tempe.  Verplancke has been closely following the NCAA litigation.

"I guarantee you, ASU and every other school, they're scrambling a little bit to try to figure out what does this (ruling) mean."

In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the National Collegiate Athletic Association couldn't bar universities from offering expanded academic benefits to student-athletes.

Verplancke shared her takeaways from the high court ruling:

No paychecks - yet

The high court's opinion doesn't mean college athletes will get paychecks from their universities. Future court rulings or NCAA action might bring that about. 

The court's decision was limited to expanding academic benefits for student-athletes, beyond scholarships.

That would let coaches offer recruits a more extensive menu of support: tech tools, education-related internships, scholarships for programs beyond a four-year degree.

From iPads to law degrees

"You're a great football player, we're going to give you a brand new iPad, a computer," Verplancke said in the voice of a recruiter. 

"You think you're not going to get pro but you want to go to grad school, law school? We're going to tie that tuition in." 

Verplancke added: "This ruling places no limits on (benefits).... The NCAA is going to have tread really lightly on any limits they put in place."

But a Lamborghini for the ride to school is off-limits, Justice Neil Gorsuch said in his opinion.

What about fairness?

One unanswered question is about fairness: Will male athletes in the big-money college sports like football and basketball pull in more academic benefits than athletes - many of them women - in non-revenue producing sports?

"The natural reaction is going to be, 'Let's provide these benefits to our upcoming football stars," Verplancke said. "Providing these benefits is a big hurdle that going to have to be overcome."

'The bigger impact'

A court case moving down a separate path gave student-athletes the right to profit from their name, image and likeness - known by the shorthand "NIL." 

Videos, sports camps, a large social media following could all be profit centers.

In July, laws taking effect in more than 20 states, including Arizona, would give student-athletes the right to profit from their name, image and likeness. 

Verplancke said the NCAA was waiting for the Supreme Court ruling before establishing NIL rules for all schools.

"That's really the bigger impact this ruling has," she said. 

"Some of the sponsorship deals, some of the promotion deals these athletes will be getting are too far overshadow the value of any educational benefit some of these students will be getting."

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