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The Supreme Court building. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

As the college sports world focuses on March Madness, the Supreme Court will hear a case this morning that could change the landscape of the NCAA.

Catch up quick: The 9th Circuit last year sided with former West Virginia RB Shawne Alston in his antitrust case against the NCAA, ruling that schools can provide unlimited academic-related expenses to their athletes.

Why it matters: If SCOTUS upholds that decision, it could open the door to a pay-for-play system in which schools compete for talent by shelling out thousands under the legal guise of education benefits.

The backdrop: Student-athlete compensation has been top of mind for years, but the glacial pace at which that's progressed continues to frustrate them.

  • Ahead of the tournament, some athletes took to social media to protest these inequities with the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty.
  • Meanwhile, right across the street from the Supreme Court, Congressional lawmakers continue to discuss federal name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation.

The big picture: In theory, the NCAA isn't against finding ways to secure compensation for its athletes as long as there are proper guardrails in place to ensure it maintains its aura of amateurism.

  • In that way, the NIL debate and cases like Alston's are similar, with the fear of transforming into a pay-for-play organization always seeming to get in the way of true progress.

The last word: "I don't think any decision the Supreme Court makes will be the silver bullet that resolves every major issue in college sports," Len Elmore, the former NBA star and current co-chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, tells Axios.

  • But progress is progress, and "anything that makes college athletes' experience a priority and works towards enhancing their education, health, safety and wellbeing is something we have to be in favor of."

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Sports

Senators blast NCAA for treatment of women's basketball teams

Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in a letter on Monday admonished the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for their unequal treatment of men's and women's basketball teams during this month's March Madness tournaments.

Catch up quick: Women's collegiate basketball teams were given a fraction of the resources during their March Madness tournament that the men's teams were provided, including unequal access to workout equipment and the availability of quality COVID-19 tests.

Biden to nominate groundbreaking first slate of federal judges

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday announced plans to nominate 11 judges to the federal courts, including D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace former D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, who is now U.S. attorney general.

Why it matters: The nominees include three Black women and, if confirmed, could result in the first Muslim federal judge in the country's history, the first AAPI woman to serve on the D.C. District Court, and the first woman of color as a federal judge in Maryland, according to the White House.

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States on the 18th tee during Day Two of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 16 in Sandwich, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Golf announced late Saturday.

What's happening: "Patrick Reed will replace DeChambeau and is undergoing the requisite testing protocol" Sunday and Monday before his expected departure for Japan, per a USA Golf statement.