While the case has slipped off the radar for the average college sports fan, the lawsuit filed by Ed O’Bannon and other former college athletes over the use of their likenesses after their careers have ended is still active and has the potential to have a major impact on collegiate athletics depending on the outcome.
The NCAA is one of three defendants (Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co. being the others) in the case, and according to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today the NCAA may look to recover legal fees from the plaintiffs if they win the case.
Given the scope of the lawsuit, legal fees for both sides will be well into seven figures by the time the trial actually begins next June.
On Friday the co-defendants filed a request to have the case schedule reset in a fashion that according to Berkowitz’s report could push the start date back three months.
The NCAA’s lawyers have said in numerous court filings that the plaintiffs — whose lead attorneys are from the firm Hausfeld LLP’s offices in Washington, D.C. — have made improper and unfair changes in their legal strategy. The NCAA’s lawyers have said those changes have forced it and the association to spend considerably more time – and, by extension, the association’s money and human resources — on the case than they otherwise would have.
Obviously this case is a long way from being resolved, and given what’s on the line there may not be a final answer for quite some time given the case itself and also the possibilities regarding appeals after a verdict is rendered.
With the waiver that athletes are required to sign in regards to the use of their likeness before being allowed to play a game, the NCAA and its partners currently are allowed to use those images however they wish (and in perpetuity as well). That’s just one of the items that the plaintiffs are fighting in court.
If the plaintiffs win this suit, the end result would be changes that would have an impact unmatched by any prior events in the history of collegiate athletics.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.