In his new book, The Supreme Court and the NCAA, author Brian Porto examines how two Supreme Court cases have shaped the way the NCAA does business. This week, he joined Bill to discuss the book and offer a prescription for reform.

Bill’s Thoughts on The Supreme Court and the NCAA

Professor Brian Porto’s contention is that much of what is most hypocritical and noxious about big-time college sports can be traced to the fact that the Supreme Court got it all wrong in two cases involving the NCAA. In the first, NCAA v. Board of Regents (1984), the Supremes ruled that the NCAA couldn’t restrict universities from cutting their own deals with networks televising the football exploits of their largest and fastest students. In the second, NCAA v. Tarkanian (1988), the justices determined that the governing body of college sports was under no obligation to extend due process to the successful and flamboyant basketball coach operating at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he regarded the NCAA’s rules as meant for other people, unless he didn’t regard them at all.

But unlike many who criticize the NCAA, which is very much like shooting big fish in a small barrel with lots and lots of large guns, Professor Porto offers not only hope that some sort of amateurism can be re-imposed on big-time college sports, but a plan to bring about that change. His prescription involves the creation of new legislation by congress that would empower and encourage the NCAA to ratchet down the money-making machinery of D-1 football and basketball programs while forcing the organization to play by the rules that NCAA v. Tarkanian enabled it to ignore.

Brian Porto’s hero is Justice Byron White. As a former college and pro athlete, White apparently understood that the two decisions referenced above were wrong-headed. He wrote dissenting opinions to that effect.

Could the profitable and popular conglomerates built on the free labor of “student-athletes” be dismantled? If football and basketball were de-emphasized at places like Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and U.S.C., would alums continue to lavish money on those programs and would millions of people still watch their games? Brian Porto leaves those broader questions to others, preferring to make a case for new laws that would correct what he feels are the worst excesses of the NCAA as it’s currently operating.