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 AL.com 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.