William Byrnes' Tax, Wealth, and Risk Intelligence

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

TaxFacts Intelligence August 16, 2021

Posted by William Byrnes on August 16, 2021


The Supreme Court upheld in June, in a unanimous decision of all nine Justices, a District Court’s injunction against the NCAA. The injunction allows the NCAA to maintain rules limiting undergraduate athletic scholarships and other compensation related to athletic performance. BUT the injunction stops as unlawful NCAA rules limiting the education-related benefits schools may make available to student-athletes.

By the way subscribers, the Texas A&M graduate program for wealth and risk management, including tax risk management, is accepting applications for fall. Maximum enrollment for a course section is 30 so that each student receives meaningful feedback throughout the course from the full-time academic, professional part-time faculty, and each other. Learn more about it here: https://law.tamu.edu/distance-education

Prof. William H. Byrnes         Robert Bloink, J.D., LL.M.

Colleges and universities across the country have leveraged sports to bring in revenue, attract attention, boost enrollment, and raise money from alumni. That profitable enterprise relies on “amateur” student athletes who compete under horizontal restraints that restrict how the schools may compensate them for their play. The National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA) issues and enforces these rules, which restrict compensation for student-athletes in various ways. These rules depress compensation for at least some student-athletes below what a competitive market would yield.

Against this backdrop, current and former student-athletes brought this antitrust lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s restrictions on compensation. Specifically, they alleged that the NCAA’s rules violate §1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits “contract[s], combination[s], or conspirac[ies] in restraint of trade or commerce.”

The Supreme Court upheld, in a unanimous decision of all nine Justices, the District Court’s injunction against the NCAA. The injunction allows the NCAA to maintain rules limiting undergraduate athletic scholarships and other compensation related to athletic performance. BUT the injunction stops as unlawful NCAA rules limiting the education-related benefits schools may make available to student-athletes.

Regarding today’s Supreme Court decision (entire 45-page opinion is available here), first it was expected by industry analysts and court watchers after the Court’s oral arguments March 31, 2021 with a foretelling Q&A session. We are already preparing Tax Facts Intelligence and Q&A for the books/app for financial advisors to leverage the new athletics marketplace and revenue streams and best represent their clients. I know of financial advisory firms that as of Tuesday will be hanging up a ‘sports agent financial advisor shingle’ and trolling SEC high schools, especially Texas, recruiting for tomorrow’s top collegiate athletes to sign up the talent.

Why not? That is how the market already works outside the USA for soccer (what everyone else calls football) and to a lesser extent baseball (albeit not nearly as popular as soccer so we hear much less about baseball camps for Dominican rising star 12 year old players like we hear about for the 12-year-old next Brazilian Pele). 

Interaction with social media followers is the currency of this new era for young athletes and can lead to a couple of hundred thousand during college for the star players, and even millions for the SEC Heisman level types. But, not having the ultimate talent and thus top sports ranking in a field does not also mean that an interactive social media following of millions cannot be created. The Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova, case in point, though she was just a little too early for the modern social media movement. Johnny Manziel, another case in point: had this decision been in place already and had he contracted a great wealth management advisor (thus great personal agent) with social media and promotional background, his life would have been very financially comfortable before his drug abuse ruined him in the pro league (talent or not aside). He certainly could have afforded a stint at the Betty Ford clinic to sober up and cleanout.

Via the advice of a great wealth manager, a personality can be leveraged into millions of dollars before the athlete graduates university, or at least hundreds of thousands.

It is clear from the unanimous ruling and the judges questioning and opinions that this is not a restrictive ruling. NCAA proponents are trying to spin that some restriction remains allowable like direct payments to players. But all it takes is one school that has money that wants to break into the big league to beat ‘Bama and LSU. Kind to think of it, I know that school… and don’t think Bama and LSU are just going to let that happen. Let real market competition begin!

An interesting question that I think will lead to much future litigation: How this ruling plays out throughout all sports regarding Title IX (such as a school spending money on men’s football, basketball, baseball, must by federal and state law also spend an equal amount on the equivalent sports for women). I am for market opportunity and thus I think it is an exciting proposition that opportunities will open up in all sports for athletes and wealth manager advisors alike (to negotiate the optimum financial rewards for the athletes).

Also, if athletic programs, such as golf or hockey, are forced to ‘come up’ with additional dollars to attract the star players to remain competitive, will the programs themselves start to think like SEC football (the most profitable league and sport) to generate additional income to meet the demands of staying or obtaining high ranking?  After all, whether it be academics or sports, it is all about ranking. Deans and Provosts rise and fall based on academic rankings. Coaches based on league rankings and national championships. Sports rankings and academic rankings have connections via alumni fundraising as of course voter university name/brand awareness and recognition. Basketball in particular through March madness has supported the academic rankings of universities though academic and sports ranking are not directly connected in voting and evaluation scoring, the indirect connection is undeniable.

This Supreme Court decision is great news for wealth managers / financial advisors who subscribe to Tax Facts because we are well-positioned to enter the new market of clientele representation created for the high school athlete seeking to share in the value that the athlete creates for a university and for the athlete through social media leveraged revenues. Understanding that “value”, generating more of it, and ‘sharing’ in the value is the bread and butter of a holistic wealth manager’s representation of athletes and entertainers.

Texas A&M already has education in this regard for our wealth management students and JDs who focus on such emerging artist/athlete/entertainer representation. We even have a law clinic for this emerging artists run by JD students supervised by my colleague that joined me at Texas A&M from our former law school in SoCal.

Look in your Tax Facts Online app for our continuing analysis of this bill, the tax reform in the reconciliation bill, and other weekly intelligence.

Wealth & Risk Management Degree for Industry Professionals – learn about the graduate degree here: https://law.tamu.edu/distance-education

Texas A&M, an annual budget of $6.3 billion (FY2020), is the largest U.S. public university, one of only 60 accredited U.S. universities of the American Association of Universities (R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity) and one of only 17 U.S. universities that hold the triple U.S. federal grant of Land, Sea, and Space! The law school has the #1 bar passage in Texas, and #1 for employment in Texas (and top 10 in U.S.)

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