At 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning at a courthouse in Oakland, Ca., Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA kicked off after five long years of litigation.
The case hasn’t gotten much coverage on television, as the legality of amateurism in college sports isn’t exactly fodder for First Take, but rest assured for the fans of collegiate athletics, this kicks off the single biggest challenge to the business model of the NCAA to date.
Without further ado, here’s a primer with all you need to know about the case:
The Basics: What started in July of 2009 as a lawsuit filed by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon has morphed into an attack on “The Collegiate Model”. As the story goes, O’Bannon saw a family member of his playing a video game with his likeness in it. The NCAA and UCLA had sold the rights to his likeness to EA Sports, the maker of the video game, but O’Bannon had not been compensated.
EA has since settled their lawsuits, however, which has given O’Bannon v. NCAA a completely different tone.
On trial will be the legality of amateurism in the NCAA. You can read through extensive breakdowns of the arguments for either side here, here and here, but the gist of it all is that the plaintiffs are claiming that the NCAA is illegally restricting collegiate athletes from being capable of capitalizing on their name, their brand, their likeness and their image.
Who Are The Plaintiffs?: O’Bannon is the face of the lawsuit, but he is only one of many former college football and basketball players that have joined as plaintiffs, including Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell. Six active college football players joined last summer as well.
Who Will Be Ruling?: Judge Claudia Wilken, a U.S. District Judge in California. It’s a bench trial, not a jury trial, meaning that after hearing the arguments, Wilken will be delivering a verdict herself.
What Will Happen To The NCAA If They Lose?: Well, nothing will happen immediately. Regardless of which way Wilken rules, this case will be headed to an appeals court, and if the time it took to actually get this case to go to trial — a month-and-a-half shy of five years — is any indication, the legal-wrangling could get lengthy.
But if the plaintiffs do prevail, it would allow the athletes in the revenue sports to be able to access a share of the billion-dollar television deals currently being brokered between the NCAA, their member conferences and television networks. Could that cut the number of teams and scholarships available for other sports? Probably. Would that expedite the Power 5 Conferences from splitting with the NCAA? That’s also a possibility, as is an eventual change to how the NCAA tournament is structured.
It won’t, however, ruin the market for major college sports. As long as there are people willing to watch the games en masse, the games will be played.
Twitter accounts to Follow: We will have updates for you right here, but for those of you on twitter, the best follows are, in alphabetical order: