Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Trial that could reshape college athletics begins

Some believe it could upend the way college sports operate. Others say Ed O'Bannon's legal crusade against the NCAA already has.

Five years after the former UCLA star filed his antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, it goes to trial Monday in a California courtroom. The stakes are high in the biggest challenge yet to the NCAA's authority to operate college sports at a time when big money makes so-called "amateur" sports look an awful like the pros.

Here's a look at the issues surrounding the case:

What is this trial about?

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The NCAA is being sued by O'Bannon and others over the use of their images in broadcasts and video games without compensation. They will argue at trial that the NCAA has acted as a cartel in violation of federal antitrust laws by conspiring to keep players from making money while at the same time pocketing billions of dollars in big television contracts. The NCAA contends that rules on "amateurism" are necessary to retain competitive balance and that a successful lawsuit could create a free-for-all that will seriously damage college athletics.

What are the plaintiffs asking for?

In the short term, not much. The 20 named plaintiffs dropped their demands for money in damages a few weeks before the trial in a strategic move to narrow the scope of the case. But they are asking for the judge to rule in their favor and issue an injunction that would prohibit the NCAA from enforcing rules against paying players for the use of their images in broadcasts. Lawyers for the plaintiffs will also argue they deserve reimbursement for legal fees that they said exceeded $30 million even before the trial.

"Just to get to trial alone is huge," said Jon King, an attorney handling several related cases. "To obtain an injunction will be revolutionary."

Why would a win be so important?

This is the first time a challenge to the way the NCAA operates has gotten this far. It is part of a broader effort to change the way major college sports are operated that includes several other lawsuits challenging various NCAA regulations and a unionization effort that won a vote for football players at Northwestern earlier this year. Plaintiffs and others claim that there is no real amateurism in a college sports industry where coaches make millions, administrators are well paid and everyone profits except the athletes providing the labor.

Associated Press
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