But he said that the withering concurring opinion by Justice Kavanaugh was “the most anti-N.C.A.A., damning antitrust opinion that has ever been authored” and could amount to a blueprint to future challenges.
“The longer term concern for the N.C.A.A. is if enough justices and federal judges join with Justice Kavanaugh’s view,” he said. “It could only be a matter of time before all of the N.C.A.A.’s restrictions on compensation are struck down as antitrust violations.”
Throughout its 115-year history, the N.C.A.A. has largely defended the notion that students should play sports in exchange for no more than a scholarship, books, room and board and, more recently, the estimated cost of attending college, a figure that can include travel and other living expenses.
But as television rights deals have swelled across the decades, sending billions of dollars into the N.C.A.A. and its member conferences each year and fueling arms races for top-notch facilities and big-name coaches, the model has come under increasing scrutiny and left the college sports industry vulnerable to legal and political challenges.
To N.C.A.A. officials, the current case, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, No. 20-512, coming after years of other litigation that even led to the protracted absence of a popular college football video game, was fundamental to the future of an association whose main duties are to organize championship events and to set and enforce rules for roughly 500,000 college athletes.
In April, Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said he was looking for “clarity about what the law is, clarity about who has responsibility for what, clarity about how these issues will be decided, whether through congressional processes, through legal processes or through N.C.A.A. decision-making processes.”
In Monday’s decision, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the court, took a measured approach, saying his task was merely to assess a limited injunction entered by a trial judge, one that allowed payments for things like musical instruments, scientific equipment, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic awards and internships. It did not permit the outright payment of salaries.