Skip to content

This week is a very important week for Ed O’Bannon’s case against the NCAA

Jun 20, 2013, 8:25 AM EDT

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

Ever since Ed O’Bannon first filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of his likeness in a video game back in 2009, there has been scuttlebutt that the outcome of said lawsuit could end up playing a major role in the way that college athletics operates at the highest level in the near future.

(For those that haven’t been paying attention, you can get some terrific background insight into the lawsuit from Brad Wolverton’s story in The Chronicle here. You might also want to give J. Brady McCollough’s feature on Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe peddler turned amateur athlete advocate, who, along with O’Bannon, is the inspiration behind the case.)

This week may be the most important week for the case, as U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken will hear arguments regarding whether or not the case can be certified as a class action lawsuit on Thursday in Oakland. If the case were to be certified to include current athletes, it would mean that “the NCAA would be liable for claims brought not just by the plaintiffs but also by all former athletes,” Bloomberg’s Jonathan Mahler wrote back in May. “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 spell out disaster for the NCAA, who has a 14-year contract worth more than $10 billion with CBS and Turner to broadcast the NCAA tournament and whose member conferences annually cut $20 million checks to each member school for their TV contracts.

With that much money being tossed around, it’s a logical leap that the O’Bannon case could end up changing the NCAA’s entire business model, right?

Well, maybe we need to pump the brakes here just a bit. From a blog that Wolverton published accompanying the story linked above:

Gary R. Roberts, dean of Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, went further, describing some of the predictions as a “preposterous stretch of the intellectual-property laws.”

“I don’t see why, if the NCAA is infringing on former players’ publicity rights in the production of video games, that would lead to a remedy of current players receiving TV rights,” he said. “There are people who want that to happen so much that they’ve convinced themselves it’s right. But I don’t think there’s any court that will jump that legal chasm.”

Other legal scholars, whose voices didn’t make it in my article, agreed.

“Maybe in five years O’Bannon will cause the entire NCAA infrastructure to come unglued, but I doubt it,” said Gene Marsh, a retired professor of law at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who represents colleges in NCAA disputes. “The thing about sports litigation—and particularly anything related to the NCAA—is that you get this wave of wishful thinking and emotion, and then someone comes along and actually applies the law, and that takes the air out of the balloon.”

In simpler terms, we’ve all gotten so excited about the fact that someone is actually stepping up to the plate and challenging the NCAA that we’ve forgotten all the legalistic red-tape the case needs to wind its way through.

And just because there’s a movement of people that are emotional and passionate about changing the basis of the NCAA doesn’t mean a federal judge who has been trained to filter out emotion and passion and focus on the letter of the law is going to agree.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Four-star 2015 guard/forward narrows list to five

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Among the schools still in the running for this Top 100 prospect’s services is LSU.

  2. 2013 Sweet 16 run pays off in a big way financially for FGCU

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:43 PM EDT

    2013 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic - Florida Gulf Coast v Radford Getty Images

    FGCU’s Sweet 16 run in 2013 paid off in a big way for the athletic department.

  3. Missouri announces plans to renovate Mizzou Arena

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT

    Kim Anderson, Mike Alden Kim Anderson, Mike Alden

    Mizzou Arena’s just ten years old, but the school has found some areas that need renovating.

  4. Former College of Charleston assistant joins staff at The Citadel

    Sep 18, 2014, 5:52 PM EDT

    Chuck Driesell, Tom Koopman Chuck Driesell, Tom Koopman

    Freeberg makes the move from the College of Charleston to The Citadel, with J.D. Powell headed in the opposite direction.

  5. Kentucky’s John Calipari offers his thoughts on USA Basketball critiques

    Sep 18, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    John Calipari AP

    Calipari tweeted that if the coaches gained an advantage from helping revitalize USA Basketball he “doesn’t begrudge them in the least.”

  6. Top-40 Class of 2015 guard sets a decision date

    Sep 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    kerwin roach AP

    An important member in a 2015 class lacking guards has set a decision date.

  7. Kentucky’s John Calipari gives away mattress, pillows to Big Blue Madness campers (VIDEO)

    Sep 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Taylor Strategy Taylor Strategy

    John Calipari helped some campers waiting for Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness sleep a little easier by giving away a mattress and some pillows.

  8. Baylor incoming recruit will not play in 2014-15

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

    Scott Drew AP

    Baylor will be without an incoming recruit for the 2014-15 season.

  9. Coach K responds to USA Basketball criticism during press conference

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:56 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Coach K responded to recent criticisms lobbied at him about unfair recruiting advantages as USA Basketball’s coach.

  10. A key piece for Providence is cleared for full-contact practice

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Karvel Anderson, Kris Dunn AP

    Providence is hoping a key member of its backcourt will be healthy this season after two straight years with a shoulder injury.

  11. ACC program uses LeBron James’ Homecoming as recruiting tactic for local five-star wing

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    One five-star prospect heard a recruiting pitch centered on LeBron James’ homecoming to Cleveland.

  12. Throwback Thursday: Vince Carter highlights at North Carolina (VIDEO)

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT

    vince carter

    Vince Carter highlight reels are still the best.

  13. 2017 guard Trevon Duval’s freshman year mixtape (VIDEO)

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

    Jon Lopez/Nike Jon Lopez/Nike

    With Isaiah Briscoe moving on to the college ranks next summer, Duval could be the next elite guard produced by the Playaz Basketball Club.

  14. UAB to open season with third annual ‘Hoops on the Haasephalt’

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptq5odriytgxyzrimznizmmymtbkzgnhmji1owvlyjhi AP

    Last year’s Hoops on the Haasephalt event attracted nearly 4,000 fans on the UAB campus.

  15. Top 2015 prospect emphatically states he’s ‘100 percent’ committed to attending LSU

    Sep 17, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Despite rumors to the contrary, one of the best players in the Class of 2015 is 100 percent committed to attending LSU next year.

  16. Wisconsin students waste no time purchasing tickets for 2014-15 season

    Sep 17, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan Bo Ryan

    “The Grateful Red” snapped up every available ticket within five minutes Wednesday morning.

  17. 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).

  18. 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.

  19. 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?