NCAA v. Smith

LOCATION: Knowles' Car

DOCKET NO.: 98-84
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 525 US 459 (1999)
ARGUED: Jan 20, 1999
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1999

Carter G. Phillips - Argued the cause for the respondent
Edwin S. Kneedler - Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent

Facts of the case

The Postbaccalaureate Bylaw of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a private organization, only allows a postgraduate student-athlete to participate in intercollegiate athletics at the institution that awarded her undergraduate degree. Under this rule, Renee M. Smith, who played undergraduate volleyball at St. Bonaventure University, was denied permission from the NCAA to play at two other institutions she attended as a graduate student. Subsequently, Smith filed suit alleging that the NCAA's refusal to waive the bylaw denied her from playing intercollegiate volleyball on the basis of her sex in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which proscribes sexual discrimination in "any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." The NCAA responded by moving to dismiss the case on the ground that Smith failed to allege that the NCAA is a recipient of federal financial assistance. Smith, in turn, argued that "the NCAA governs the federally funded intercollegiate athletics programs of its members, that these programs are educational, and that the NCAA benefited economically from its members' receipt of federal funds." The District Court concluded that the alleged connections between the NCAA and federal financial assistance to member institutions were too attenuated to sustain a Title IX claim and dismissed the suit. Smith then moved for leave to amend her complaint. The court denied the motion as moot. Reversing that denial, the Court of Appeals, in addressing Smith's proposed amended complaint, held that the NCAA's receipt of dues from federally funded member institutions would suffice, if proven, to bring the NCAA within the scope of Title IX as a recipient of federal funds.


Does the National Collegiate Athletic Association's receipt of dues from federally funded member institutions subject it to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972?

Media for NCAA v. Smith

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1999 in NCAA v. Smith

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 98-84, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. R.M. Smith.

Mr. Roberts.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here from the Third Circuit which held that the NCAA would be covered by title IX if it received dues from member institutions which receive Federal financial assistance.

That decision is wrong and should be reversed.

It's wrong because Court has held that for an entity to be covered by title IX, or any of the other statutes with the same Federal funding trigger, the entity must itself be a recipient of Federal financial assistance.

The Court said just that in the Paralyzed Veterans case.

Quote, Congress limited the scope of the law to those who actually receive Federal financial assistance.

Later in the same opinion, the Court said that these laws, quoting again, require us to identify the recipient of the Federal assistance.

End quote.

And it also explained why that is so.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

But we've also said that it can be... it can indirectly be a recipient.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

In the Grove City case, Your Honor, but the test is the same.

Whether a direct recipient or an indirect recipient, the entity must be the intended recipient under the grant statute or program.

And the reason for that is clear, the condition... the prohibition on discrimination is imposed as a condition on the receipt of funds.

So, it is limited to those who accept the funds and thereby agree to the condition.

That is consistent with the Court's decision last term in Gebser which reaffirmed that construction and the rationale.

The discriminatory acts of the school employee in that case did not automatically trigger a damage action under title IX because title IX's coverage is limited to recipients.

The recipient was the school district, not the employee, and therefore the question was what did the school district know and what did the school district do or not do.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Does Paralyzed Veterans modify the regulation that's involved in this case, 34 C.F.R.... what 106.h?

John G. Roberts, Jr.:


I think it can be read... the regulation could be read... consistent with Paralyze Veterans.

As even the Solicitor General acknowledges, all of the regulations impose obligations only on recipients.

And the regulation doesn't say, as the Third Circuit thought, that it was enough that you operate an educational program or activity.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, it said directly or through another recipient.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Directly or through, a reference to the holding in Grove City that you can be an indirect recipient.

But the test is still the same.

Whether indirect or direct, are you the intended recipient?

What the Court said in Paralyzed Veterans is to find the recipient, you have to look to the--

Antonin Scalia:

How do you smuggle in intended recipient?