Skip to content

The latest in the Ed O’Bannon case, and why the NCAA’s headed for change

May 8, 2013, 10:35 AM EDT

NCAA_Logo AP

Back in 2009, Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA that has, in the years since then, become the single-biggest assault on the way that the NCAA does business.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the case, the basics are as follows: O’Bannon won a title and a few player of the year awards with UCLA back in the mid-90s, but when he saw his likeness in an EA Sports video game in 2009, he realized that everyone was still profiting off of him and his athletic accomplishments in college except O’Bannon himself. So he filed a lawsuit, and since then it has grown into a case that could change the entire business model of college athletics.

Back in January, a judge ruled that current athletes could be added to the case and that the plaintiffs could go after everyone profiting off of college athletics — the schools, the conferences, the television networks. The latest twist, as Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg explains, is the potential for the case to become a class-action lawsuit.

And that’s what could end up being the difference-maker for those pushing for change. From Mahler:

In their latest filing, O’Bannon’s lawyers argue that the case deserves class-action status. If their request is granted, the NCAA would be liable for claims brought not just by the plaintiffs but also by all former athletes. Anyone who has ever played a Division I college sport would instantly be suing for damages for every instance in which his or her image was used in a video game, highlight reel, broadcast or rebroadcast.

That could get pretty expensive for the NCAA. But if the case were just about a few billion dollars, the association would have settled by now. It hasn’t because O’Bannon and his lawyers are also asking for something else: They want all current and future college athletes to be able to make licensing deals of their own. It’s short yardage from there to the NCAA’s doomsday scenario: schools bidding for the services of student- athletes.

Anyone that has read anything that I’ve written over the years knows that I’m staunchly pro-athletes. I think they should be getting paid. I think they should see a cut of the money that they help produce. Whether that comes from the school’s athletic department, independent boosters or through the Olympic model — allowing each athlete to sign sponsorship deals and profit off of his likeness — is something that can and will be debated.

But something has to change.

Because it’s silly to watch players have their names tarnished because the NCAA is fighting tooth and nail against the most simple and powerful principles of economics. In his terrific takedown of the NCAA from Monday, Patrick Hruby explains how the NCAA’s principles of amateurism are what creates the black market where runners like Rodney Blackstock toss AAU coaches like Darius Cobb thousands of dollars simply for the chance to get access to players like Ben McLemore.

McLemore, has a potential No. 1 pick in the draft, not only has a ton of current value, but his market potential value is through the roof. Agents, financial planners and marketing reps know this. They’re willing to spend money to get close to him. There is a demand for what McLemore offers as an athlete, and something as brittle as the NCAA rulebook isn’t going to stop businessmen from ‘investing’ in building those potentially lucrative relationships.

According to a study done by a Stanford economist, a Michigan basketball player in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 — when the Wolverines weren’t close to competing for national titles — would have made $250,000. A study by an economist from Cal. State-San Marcos said that Chris Webber was worth four times the $280,000 that he accepted from a booster.

NCAA rules aren’t going to stop money from changing hands when there is this much value being discussed.

The only thing it is going to do is keep it in the pockets of the third-parties — the agents, the AAU coaches, and, of course, the NCAA itself — and away from the players that are actually generating the revenue.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Penn State begins preseason training with new strength & conditioning challenge (VIDEO)

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Patrick Chambers Patrick Chambers

    The Nittany Lions return five of their top six scorers from a team that finished the 2013-14 season with a 16-18 record (6-12 Big Ten).

  2. Jim Boeheim calls Yahoo’s Coach K story ‘completely off-base’

    Sep 17, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Jim Boeheim is not one to bite his tongue around the media.

  3. DePaul lands second front court recruit this week

    Sep 17, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT

    DMVElite 80 DMVElite 80

    Is Oliver Purnell is tapping into a D.C. pipeline?

  4. Two Missouri freshmen suspended after arrest (UPDATED)

    Sep 17, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    Kim Anderson AP

    Missouri will move on with team-related activities without two freshmen following an arrest.

  5. Five-star freshman JaQuan Lyle removed from Oregon roster

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Lyle was originally committed to Louisville before backing off.

  6. Watch Kentucky fans sprinting to line up for Big Blue Madness tickets (VIDEO)

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    Via @J11Riley Via @J11Riley

    The rush for a good spot to wait for Big Blue Madness tickets is always entertaining.

  7. Tacko Fall, Class of 2015 7-foot-6 center, sets three visits

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    The tallest player in high school basketball has some visits set.

  8. Arizona State cuts ties with junior college recruit following arrest

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    jordan washington

    Arizona State has cut ties with a junior college forward and 2015 recruit was who arrested over the weekend.

  9. Bo Ryan hits golf balls into Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium (PHOTO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan AP

    Bo Ryan shows he’s a big man on campus at Wisconsin following his Final Four appearance.

  10. Jalen Rose believes Chris Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Jalen Rose says that former teammates Chris Webber needs to apologize.

  11. Texas lands impact four-star guard in 2015 recruiting class

    Sep 16, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    The Longhorns pull in a commitment from a good guard in 2015.

  12. Vanderbilt fills out 2015 class with top 150 forward

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:46 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Kevin Stallings has earned four commitments in 2015.

  13. Thoughts on Antonio Blakeney, shoe companies and decommitments

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Antonio Blakeney (Nike) Antonio Blakeney (Nike)

    The five-star recruit decommitted from Louisville, and what it has to do with shoe companies.

  14. Pac-12’s conference schedule features Arizona-UCLA just once

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    Arizona v UCLA Getty Images

    There are also a limited number of ugly road weeks.

  15. Report: Doug Wojcik’s settlement with Charleston worth six figures

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Wojcik was fired with cause for allegedly abusing his players.

  16. Top prospect in Class of 2014 signs endorsement deal with Under Armour

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT

    BxqWQrkCcAAi0S1

    Mudiays $1.2 million deal with a team in China will now be significantly supplemented.

  17. Boston College point-shaving scandal portrayed in upcoming 30 for 30

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    0216_large

    Have you ever seen ‘Goodfellas’? You’ll recognize one of the main players in this story.

  18. Mixtape of elite 2015 big man Ivan Rabb (VIDEO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    Ivan Rabb is one of the best centers in the country.