With EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) having settled with the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit regarding the use of player likenesses, the NCAA finds itself as the lone defendant in a case that could ultimately change the shape of collegiate athletics. And on Friday the plaintiffs picked up another victory of sorts, as federal judge Claudia Wilken denied the NCAA’s motion to have the suit dismissed.
With this ruling the next step for Wilken is to determine whether or not the case should receive class-action certification. If that happens the plaintiffs can add to its list of participants, and if the NCAA were to lose such a case the amount of money they’d have to pay out could possibly be a staggering amount.
Wilken said that a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that the NCAA has relied upon to preserve its amateurism system “does not stand for the sweeping proposition that student-athletes must be barred, both during their college years and forever thereafter, from receiving any monetary compensation for the commercial use of their names, images, and likenesses. Although it is possible that the NCAA’s ban on student-athlete pay serves some procompetitive purpose, such as increasing consumer demand for college sports, Plaintiffs’ plausible allegations to the contrary must be accepted as true at the pleading stage.”
The O’Bannon case isn’t expected to begin in court until 2014, but despite it seemingly floating “under the radar” this suit is something to keep an eye on in the coming months. How will a “new” NCAA look if this suit forces change is a question that few have a concrete answer to at this point. And at this rate, the powers that be will have to consider this whether they like it or not.