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US Supreme Court Rules in Favor of NCAA in Title IX Case

The NCAA should not be subject to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Supreme Court unanimously decided at the end of February.

The question, which came in a case brought by a volleyball player who wanted to continue playing as a graduate student, was controversial since the NCAA collects dues from colleges that are covered by the law.

Volleyball player Renee M. Smith said that the NCAA violated Title IX in its continuing-eligibility process and that the Association was subject to Title IX because it receives federal funds.

However, in writing the Supreme Court unanimous decision, Justice Ruth Ginsburg stated, ìThe Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the NCAAís receipt of dues from federally funded institutions would suffice to bring the Association within the scope of Title IX. We reject that determination as inconsistent with the governing statute, regulation and this Courtís decisions.

>ìDues payments from recipients of federal funds, we hold, do not suffice to render the dues recipient subject to Title IX.î

Other Questions

Two other questions were raised and were sent by the Supreme Court to a lower court: Is the NCAA subject to the anti-discrimination law because its members grant it authority to govern their sports programs?

And does the law apply to the association because a non-profit group affiliated with it clearly does receive federal funds? 

The second question is in reference to the NYSP program (National Youth Sports Program) administered by the NCAA for underprivileged youth for which the NCAA does receive federal funds.

NCAA View

The NCAA News reported that NCAA President Cedric W. Dempsey said that the decision will not affect the Associationís commitment to gender equity. ìWe have consistently said that the NCAA should be in compliance with Title IX on a voluntary basis and have worked to achieve compliance,î Dempsey said. ìObviously, we are pleased with the decision of the Supreme Court in this matter, however.î

Case Background

Smith originally brought the case in 1996 after the NCAA denied her waiver of NCAA Bylaw 14.1.7, which stated that a postgraduate student-athlete may continue to compete at the institution from which he or she gained an undergraduate degree, provided that the student-athlete is otherwise eligible.
Smith had played volleyball at St. Bonaventure from 1991 to 1993, finished her undergraduate degree in two and a half years, and then went on to graduate study. She went to Hofstra one year and then transferred to Pittsburgh, where she hoped to continue playing college volleyball.

When the NCAA denied her waiver, she sued, claiming that the NCAAís refusal to waive the bylaw excluded her from intercollegiate competition based upon her sex in violation of Title IX. Smith claimed that the NCAA granted proportionately fewer waivers in such cases for women than for men.