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NCAA paid $68 million in legal fees as its revenue decreased by more than 50 percent

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2020 was an eventful year for the NCAA.

Over the course of the 2019-20 fiscal year — which spanned Sept. 1, 2019 through Aug. 31, 2020 — the NCAA brought in $521 million in revenue, according to recent tax filings provided to multiple outlets Monday. It was a steep decline from the more than $1 billion the organization brought in in 2019.

Why the drop-off? The NCAA’s biggest moneymaker is March Madness, and both the men’s and women’s national basketball tournaments were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Per the Associated Press, the NCAA lost $702 million just from the media rights associated with the men’s tournament.

All the while, the NCAA spent nearly $68 million on legal fees as it continued to defend its longstanding amateurism rules. That figure included a whopping $34.8 million in accrued fees related to the NCAA v. Alston case. That case, of course, went before the Supreme Court and resulted in a 9-0 defeat for the NCAA last month.

It’s a case that could have significant ramifications for the NCAA and invite future lawsuits on the distribution of money in college athletics.

"The bottom line is that the NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year. Those enormous sums of money flow to seemingly everyone except the student athletes," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the 9-0 decision.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09:  NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on “NCAA Athlete NIL (name, image, and likeness) Rights” on Capitol Hill on June 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress hopes to pass legislation on NIL compensation at the federal level before it takes effect in several states across the country on July 1. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
NCAA president Mark Emmert was paid $2.9 million during the 2019-20 fiscal year. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Mark Emmert gets a raise

The loss in the Supreme Court is part of why NCAA president Mark Emmert voiced support for a decentralized version of college sports last week. It was a major concession for Emmert, who has long opposed changes to the NCAA’s model.

“When you have an environment like that it just forces us to think more about what constraints should be put in place ever on college athletes. And it should be the bare minimum,” Emmert said.

Emmert’s comments came July 15, two weeks after college athletes were first able to earn income from the use of their name, image and likeness.

Speaking of Emmert, he was paid $2.9 million in total compensation for 2019-20, including $2.5 million in base salary. For the previous fiscal year, Emmert was paid $2.7 million. Meanwhile, Donald Remy was paid $1.7 million and NCAA executive vice president Stan Wilcox made $1.3 million. Remy was the NCAA’s chief operating officer until he accepted a position in the Biden Administration.

Emmert, whose contract was controversially extended through the end of 2025 back in April, was one of several NCAA employees to take a pay cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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