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 EST

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. Cincinnati guard granted release; will likely be a graduate transfer

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Cincinnati could be losing an experienced guard for next season.

  2. Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell among 10 finalists for Wayman Tisdale Award as nation’s best freshman

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A lot of productive players on the Wayman Tisdale Award finalist list, led by Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell.

  3. America East Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:52 PM EST

    AP AP

    Albany is looking for its third NCAA tournament appearance in as many years. Stony Brook is attempting to once again get over that conference tournament hump.

  4. Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s Frank Kaminsky’s award to win

    Mar 3, 2015, 3:47 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Kaminsky has all but locked up the award in my mind.

  5. Ohio Valley Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 2:32 PM EST

    Murray State's Cameron Payne (AP) AP

    Murray State rolled through the OVC unbeaten and enters the conference tournament as the heavy favorite.

  6. Duke AD defends handling of allegations against Rasheed Sulaimon

    Mar 3, 2015, 1:36 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Rasheed Sulaimon was reportedly publicly accused of sexual assault.

  7. Butler gets starting forward back from broken hand

    Mar 3, 2015, 12:54 PM EST

    Villanova v Butler Getty Images

    Andrew Chrabascz had missed the last two weeks with a broken hand

  8. Big South Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    John Brown Getty Images) Getty Images

    A three-game margin separated the top seven teams, so don’t be surprised if things don’t go according to the seeds in Conway, South Carolina.

  9. Dan Patrick Show: Frank Kaminsky joins to talk about his senior year (VIDEO)

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:42 AM EST

    Frank Kaminsky, David Rivers, Walter Pitchford AP

    The National Player of the Year talks hoops, soccer and senior years.

  10. ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’ trailer released (VIDEO)

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:12 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Last year, the college hoops 30 for 30 was “Requiem for the Big East”.

  11. NEC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 3, 2015, 9:15 AM EST

    Jalen Cannon (AP Photo) Jalen Cannon (AP Photo)

    Can St. Francis (NY) land their first-ever NCAA tournament berth?

  12. Seton Hall adds three-star wing commitment for 2015 class

    Mar 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    AP Photo AP

    Seton Hall added to its 2015 recruiting haul on Monday.

  13. Alabama forward out for the season with injury

    Mar 2, 2015, 7:20 PM EST

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Alabama loses another starter as the regular season winds down.

  14. Patriot League Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 2, 2015, 6:19 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Bucknell will be looking to make their third NCAA tournament appearance under Dave Paulsen.

  15. Pregame Shootaround: Three great games on TV tonight

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    Buddy Hield AP

    The Big 12 and the ACC will both be in action.

  16. Atlantic Sun Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 2, 2015, 2:30 PM EST

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Atlantic Sun Tournament should be an exciting one as Florida Gulf Coast attempts to dethrone regular season champ North Florida.