This storm is also known as O’Bannon v. NCAA. It’s an antitrust lawsuit filed in 2009 by former UCLA All-American basketball player Ed O’Bannon and a handful of other ex-college athletes, who don’t think the NCAA should be profiting from their names and images without sharing the royalty payments.
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.
I kind of think that the NCAA as we know it might be nearing the end with the mega-conferences anyway. The Big Ten (what is it now, 14 teams?) and similar conferences might just opt out of the NCAA for sports generally or football specifically in the next few years. Big-time basketball would be sure to follow, and the the NCAA would be the governing body for the small-timers– I suppose like EMU.