By Keen Reed

A federal judge is expected to rule on June 1 whether or not the four-year-old O’Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit will be given class-action status. If class-action status is granted, it could mean big changes for the NCAA’s billion-dollar economic model. Instead of the NCAA (read: member schools) keeping all the loot for themselves and the players getting nothing more than their scholarships, the courts might eventually rule that athletes in the revenue sports deserve a cut of the pie that they’ve created with their blood, sweat and tears.

At the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, “there isn’t anyone in college athletics that isn’t taking it [the O’Bannon lawsuit] seriously,” wrote Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel recently. “One day soon, maybe even by 2015, the players themselves could be getting a share of the billion-dollar revenue, a once-unthinkable development. The O’Bannon side is seeking a 50/50 split. The NCAA wants to keep it 100/0 and has expressed no interest in negotiating. Billions of dollars hang in the balance.”

Imagine that. Some of the revenue from big-time sports could actually end up going to the players that produce the product, rather than going toward more opulent facilities in the escalating facilities arms race, as well as escalating salaries for coaches and athletic administrators.

It’s a basic accounting issue and the NCAA sports power brokers have all the power. Unlike their NFL and NBA counterparts, NCAA football and men’s basketball players don’t have any representation. No union. No agents. They’re left at the mercy of NCAA decision-makers.

And those decision-makers traditionally have operated from a position of greed.

Hence the need for the O’Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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