It is a battle that has been going on for a while now, but the cracks in the NCAA fortress may finally start leading to some crumbling. A federal court judge ruled Tuesday the NCAA cannot keep football and basketball players from pursuing a cut of the profits made through television coverage of football and basketball games.
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon is leading an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and on Tuesday Judge Claudia Wilken overruled a motion by the NCAA to prevent the lawsuit from advancing on procedural grounds.
"Now the (NCAA and its co-defendants) are facing potential liability that's based on the billions of dollars in revenue instead of tens or hundreds of millions," said Michael Hausfeld, interim lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the story filed by ESPN.com. "It's a more accurate context for what the players deserve."
The NCAA is opposed to former players jumping in on the lawsuit. Former basketball players Bill Walton and Oscar Robertson have joined in on the lawsuit and have asked the judge to agree they belong in the lawsuit as well. The NCAA believes the lawsuit should focus on current broadcast revenue instead of any revenue generated through rebroadcasts. They are joined in the lawsuit by Collegiate Licensing Company, the company largely responsible for all licensing deals in collegiate athletics. Essentially, if you wear a hat, t-shirt, jersey or sweat shirt or use anything with your favorite team's logo on it, it goes through CLC first (notable exception is Notre Dame, who controls their own licensing deals).
A court hearing has been set for June 20, at which time Judge Wilken has instructed the NCAA to adjust their stance against class certification, which would eliminate former players such as Walton and Robertson from being included in the lawsuit.
The NCAA feels mildly comfortable with their situation right now, with reports of a dozen law firms and an investment of $20 million going in to this case. If the NCAA loses, it will be beyond costly.
The Former College Athletes Association is the organization that would negotiate the future licenses with the NCAA so players can eventually receive a cut from television revenue, advertising and, of course, video games. EA Sports has long been battling against the issue of player likeness but if the NCAA were to lose this particular lawsuit it could lead to some changes with the popular video game franchise and more.