In a staggering decision made by Judge Claudia Wilken, NCAA student-athletes — as time goes on — could have the ability to legally pursue a share of the television, licensing, and video game money generated by massive contracts between universities and the major networks that cover sporting events — including college football.
Earlier this week, Judge Wilken rejected a motion from the NCAA which would have prevented a class action lawsuit filed by former UCLA Bruins basketball star Ed O’Bannon from moving forward. O’Bannon, along with other notable sports stars including Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell and NBA Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson are working together to certify all Division I college basketball and college football players as a class, entitled to a share of media and licensing contracts.
In essence, should the final judgement go in favor of O’Bannon and the plaintiffs named in the case against the NCAA former players would be able to collect a percentage of revenues generated during their time in college athletics which would be determined through negotiations directly with their former schools, video game companies, and licensing organizations which profited from their participation in college athletics.
The implications of this from a business perspective are staggering — not only for NCAA member schools that have enjoyed unfettered financial windfalls without having to pay anything back out to those who help create them, but also for players who have been looking for additional compensation for the time and effort they put in to making their respective athletic departments such profitable ventures.
There’s some time between now and a jury trial date of June 2014 set by Judge Wilken, and you have to figure there will be plenty of wheeling and dealing between the major parties involved behind closed doors to make this all go away, but regardless, her decision to let O’Bannon’s case continue is a strong statement on the fact that the current economic and procedural model of the NCAA is failing and something must be done about it.
Regardless of whether you are in the camp that thinks a scholarship is payment enough for a student-athlete, you have to understand that schools are profiting far beyond the benefit these young men and women receive in return.
Could we finally be on the way to a tipping point where a more equitable balance is established?
Only time will tell.