Supreme Court makes it harder to sue NCAA

The US Supreme Court has made it harder to sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association under a law banning sex bias in educational programs receiving federal aid.

Ruling unanimously Feb. 23, the court said the fact that the NCAA receives dues from federally financed colleges and universities does not open it to lawsuits under the 1972 anti-bias law known as Title IX.

The decision is good news for hundreds of private membership organizations that are not direct recipients of federal aid but who are comprised of members who are.

Many such groups were concerned that the case might expand the coverage of federal anti-discrimination laws to them even though they reap none of the benefits of direct federal financial assistance.

For student athletes and the NCAA the issue is still open. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court level to determine whether the NCAA is a direct recipient of federal aid through a federally funded youth sports program it runs.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court, "At most, the association's receipt of dues demonstrates that it indirectly benefits from the federal assistance afforded its members. This showing, without more, is insufficient to trigger Title IX coverage."

Renee Smith played college volleyball for two seasons, but was denied a waiver to play two more at the graduate level under an NCAA rule barring graduate students from competing at a school other than the one from which they earned their undergraduate degree. She sued, claiming similar waivers are frequently given to male athletes.

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