With Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company settling their respective lawsuits months ago, the NCAA was left as the lone defendant in the lawsuit named for former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon. Instead of going the settlement route the NCAA was going to fight in hopes of getting the suit dismissed, and based upon what could be on the line that’s understandable.
With the very definition of amateurism on the line, the immediate move to settle the lawsuit wasn’t going to work. Instead the NCAA looked to do its best to convince Judge Claudia Wilken that the case should be dismissed. And on Friday Wilken ruled that the case will not be dismissed and is thereby allowed to proceed towards trial, with the case expected to begin in June.
According to a report by Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, the goal of the plaintiffs isn’t to get student-athletes paid so much as it is to remove the current restrictions that prohibit an athlete from receiving anything from their name, likeness and image.
Barring a settlement before then, the plaintiffs will ask a jury to strike down the NCAA’s age-old restrictions preventing athletes from cashing in on their name, likeness and image.
“We’re not asking for any money to be paid,” Michael Hausfeld, attorney for the plaintiffs, said during Thursday’s summary judgment hearing before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken. “We are asking for the restraint to be removed … and then the market will determine how it plays out.”
The summary judgement hearing didn’t go well for the defendant, especially when the argument was made that allowing student-athletes to be compensated for their name, likeness and image would upset the competitive balance of collegiate athletics. Wilken wasn’t buying, and she even noted rising coaching salaries as a reason for her disagreement with that claim.
College sports already has a clear division between the haves and the have-nots, with the most prestigious programs and conferences receiving the highest amount of revenue from television contracts and the like. And with college football’s move to a playoff that some have argued further segregates its five most powerful conferences from the rest, not to mention the desire of those leagues to have legislative autonomy (and essentially govern themselves), there are already clear divisions that need to be addressed.
The assertion of the defendants that removing the restrictions placed on college athletes would cause divisions is something they’ll likely attempt to argue should this lawsuit begin in June. Will the presiding judge buy it? If anything, Friday’s ruling reveals the need to come up with some really good (and more importantly, persuasive) reasons why the current system should be allowed to remain as is.