Settlement talks next step in Ed O’Bannon lawsuit

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After U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken denied the NCAA’s request to have the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit dismissed last Friday, it seemed as if the case would be headed to trial in June. However on Friday it was reported by Jon Solomon of that Wilken has demanded that the two parties begin settlement talks.

The NCAA is the lone defendant in this case with Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company having tentatively agreed to settle with the plaintiffs, and as a result of that action the NCAA sued EA and the CLC. For the plaintiffs this case is about football and basketball players receiving the right to be compensated for the use of their likeness and image.

As for the NCAA, this is about maintaining a status quo that has existed for years regardless of the many changes in collegiate athletics.

Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer, said in a statement: “The NCAA will of course participate in the court-ordered mediation, however, we will continue to protect the core principles of the collegiate model.”

Not connected to this news is the symposium being held by the Penn Law Entertainment and Sports Law Society this weekend in Philadelphia. One topic that has come up for discussion is the concept of “pay for play,” and it should be noted that this is not a goal of the plaintiffs in the O’Bannon lawsuit. But given the possible impact that such a change could have on college athletics, there have been no shortage of opinions on the matter from some of the panelists.

It’s safe to say that the Navy AD should have gone with “inmates running the asylum” as opposed to “animals running the zoo.” But that point aside, those statements seem to fall in line with what’s been said by many opponents of student-athletes being paid. If student-athletes are paid all hell is bound to break loose and college athletics will crumble as a result.

However to focus solely on the relationship between the athlete and the college may be a bit shortsighted when discussing the value of the scholarship education athletes receive. How much value is there for the individual that shows up on campus lacking the educational tools needed to take advantage of this opportunity? How much are they really learning? Or is it simply an exercise in making sure the athlete remains eligible for competition?

The answers to those questions depend on the institution, with there being a few cases of programs placing greater importance on remaining eligible as opposed to truly making strides in the classroom. And the matter of a student’s preparedness entering college is the responsibility of the high schools, because if the job isn’t being done at that level is it realistic to expect the student to excel in college?

The O’Bannon lawsuit may end up changing the very structure of collegiate athletics as we know it, but to think that monetary compensation is the lone issue would be a mistake. At some point the academic issues will need to be addressed as well, especially if we’re to believe that a scholarship is acceptable as the primary form of “income” for student-athletes.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.