Once six current college football players made the decision to join the list of plaintiffs in the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case it was only a matter of time before the governing body of collegiate athletics issued a response.
That response came on Friday, with chief legal officer Donald Remy stating that the plaintiffs’ “scheme to to pay a small number of student-athletes threatens college sports as we know it.” Remy argues that if the plaintiffs are successful the 96% who don’t compete in either football or men’s basketball would ultimately suffer, with schools having to cut sports in order to make ends meet.
College sports today are valued by the student-athletes who compete and all of us who support them. However, the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the likeness case now want to make this about professionalizing a few current student-athletes to the detriment of all others. Their scheme to pay a small number of student-athletes threatens college sports as we know it.
In particular, we would lose the very real opportunity for at least 96 percent of NCAA male and female student-athletes who do not compete in Division I men’s basketball or FBS football to play a sport and get an education, as they do today.
But isn’t this already happening? Many schools over the years have made the move to cut sports, and while some may point to the need to be compliant with Title IX standards that isn’t the only reason why this has happened.
Maryland, for example, made the decision to cut seven sports last July due to an athletic budget deficit that was around $4 million and according to the Washington Post forecast to reach nearly $17 million by 2017. Of course a few months after making that decision the school accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten, citing its current financial situation as the primary reason for doing so.
While the O’Bannon case certainly has the potential to change the landscape of collegiate athletics, the landscape has needed changing for years. Will it ultimately lead to this current model of “amateur” athletics crumbling? Only time will tell.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken has yet to determine whether or not this suit will receive class-action certification, and until that happens expect more public exchanges between the plaintiffs and defendants.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.