Late Thursday evening word spread that six current college football players have joined the list of plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit. Those players are Arizona linebacker Chase Fischer, Arizona kicker Jake Smith, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota receiver Victor Keise and Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate.
The follow-up question: why aren’t any current college basketball players among the list of plaintiffs?
According to Michael McCann on Sports Illustrated, while many players communicated interest in joining the lawsuit ultimately concerns over possible retribution from the NCAA (or their schools) proved to be too much to overcome.
Some parents even cited the tumultuous beginning for former UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who had to sit out three games while being investigated by the NCAA before being cleared to play.
Parents of those players, in particular, expressed concerns about the potential for retribution by the NCAA, specifically that negative information might surface that might impact the player’s draft status and corresponding rookie NBA contract.
The parents focused on what they considered to be an unwarranted drop in Shabazz Muhammad’s draft prospects. Muhammad was widely projected to be a top two pick before he entering UCLA as a freshman last fall. Although he played well for the Bruins — he was named the Co-Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12 — Muhammad encountered controversy off the court. The NCAA suspended Muhammad before UCLA’s season opener because he allegedly received impermissible benefits. Muhammad also attracted negative attention when it was determined he was a year older than he claimed.
Not all of Muhammad’s issues (the age debate being one) that led to him going 14th overall in the NBA Draft had to do with the NCAA. But, there was real concern on the part of the plaintiffs before any current student-athletes joined the suit that there would be consequences (in regards to their status as collegians and professionals) for them doing so.
Of course the NCAA responded to this concern last week, but they governing body did note that it wasn’t responsible for what schools may do if a player were to join the lawsuit.
Wouldn’t that be even more of a concern for a college football player, who has to wait three years after his class graduates from high school to enter the NFL? Well, that aspect also led some parents of the college basketball players to ask if joining would really have an impact since the NBA’s rule is that you only have to be one year removed from high school to enter its draft.
Could this ultimately change down the line? Possibly, but at this point the lawsuit may need to earn class-action certification before college basketball players volunteer to join.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.