And then there was one defendant remaining in the lawsuit against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) filed by a number of former college athletes. On Thursday it was reported that EA Sports, which also announced that it will not produce its popular college football video game next season, and the CLC have settled all claims brought against them by the plaintiffs. According to the New York Times the entities will reportedly pay in upwards of $40 million to settle the case.
With this announcement more than 100,000 former athletes are expected to receive funds, with there still being questions as to whether or not the settlement will impact current student-athletes. Just as important in all of this is the fact that the NCAA is the lone remaining defendant in the lawsuit. So while today’s news may not qualify as a watershed moment for collegiate athletics, it means that we’re going to find out just how hard both sides of the suit are willing to fight to either force change of maintain the status quo.
The settlement also allows the legal representation of the plaintiffs to focus all of their efforts on battling the NCAA, which could result in their case becoming even stronger.
“We hold that the NCAA intentionally looked the other way while EA commercialized the likenesses of students, and it did so because it knew that EA’s financial success meant a bigger royalty check to the NCAA,” Steve Berman, lead attorney in the suit brought about by former Arizona State/Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, said in a statement.
“We are looking forward to presenting our case against the NCAA to a jury at trial,” Berman added. “We believe the facts will reveal a startling degree of complicity and profiteering on the backs of student athletes.”
The NCAA has entertained no such plans of settling, and why would they since what’s at stake means much more for the governing body of collegiate athletics than it does either of the other two defendants. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today the NCAA has made moves to bolster its legal team, and they’re prepared to take the battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be.
In concert with the NCAA’s position, [NCAA chief legal officer Donald] Remy said the association has retained one new law firm for the purpose of trial and another to handle appeals. Asked whether the likely cost of such additions to the NCAA’s legal team had been approved by association governing panels involved with oversight of the NCAA’s finances, Remy said: “This strategy has been discussed by all appropriate bodies and endorsed. The membership supports this handling of the case.”
It’s rather obvious that we’re nowhere near having this lawsuit resolved, and there’s obviously a lot on the line. But what will the future of collegiate athletics be? Despite the scenarios thrown around by folks on both sides of the equation, it’s difficult to say that there’s a surefire answer at this point.