SBD/February 27, 2014/Colleges

O'Bannon Documents Detail NCAA's Stance On Use Of Athletes Names, Likenesses

Documents show Brand wanted to relax rules to make them "more sensible"
Documents in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA that were unsealed yesterday under a federal court order "offer another preview of the plaintiffs' strategy -- use the NCAA's own records to show contradictions in how the association has approached the use of athletes' names and likenesses," according to Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY. The unsealed documents "portray the NCAA as having highly specific rules that limit the use of athletes' names and likenesses but also offer examples that, to the plaintiffs, show that the association failed to protect athletes' rights even as the NCAA entertained suggestions about relaxing some rules so it could improve its own financial standing." The documents, amounting to more than 75 pages, have a "summary of comments from various corporate and NCAA officials, including then-NCAA president Myles Brand, who met in January 2007 with an NCAA panel that studied the use of athletes' names and likenesses and advocated greater flexibility of NCAA rules." Suggestions for "some of the most fundamental changes came from unnamed representatives" of EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co. Unnamed reps of Cingular, State Farm, CBS and ESPN also "had requests pertaining to greater involvement of current athletes in their promotional efforts." A summary of Brand's comments showed he saw "a need for flexibility and reasonableness." Among Brand's comments: "We don't want to tie the hands of schools because we didn't anticipate emerging technologies. ... We can not (sic) exploit individual student-athletes, but it is not clear what exploitation is. ... We need to find out how to better work with corporate sponsors." The summary added, "Myles doesn't view this as liberalizing the rules -- it is just making them more sensible, like all campuses have to find ways to work with the corporate community" (, 2/26).

SPLITTING THE PROCEEDS: In Birmingham, Jon Solomon wrote the documents "provide at least one proposed model" for compensating college athletes and "shed insight into how pro leagues split revenue." O'Bannon economic expert Daniel Rascher estimated that a player on Alabama's '10 football team "would have received $47,330 from live broadcasting revenue that year and about $190,000 over four years," while a USC football player "would have received about $27,651 and roughly $110,000 over four years." Other unsealed documents "reflected how much money college athletes could receive from licensing under damages calculations from Rascher." A Michigan State men's basketball player in '10-11 "would have received about $275,675 that year from live broadcasting, compared to $191,512 from a UCLA player." The examples "came from a report by NCAA expert Daniel Rubinfeld in an attempt to show competitive balance issues for teams if players were allowed to be paid." Meanwhile, O'Bannon attorney Michael Hausfeld at a hearing last week "faced some difficult questions" from U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken "about whether the plaintiffs wanted college players to receive licensing payments during their college careers or have money put aside into a trust fund for after they leave." Hausfeld ultimately said that he "would be fine with an injunction allowing money to be put aside in a fund." Wilken said at the hearing, "I'm not issuing any injunctions until there's a finding of liability. And it probably wouldn't be a question of compromising, it would be a question of what had been shown to be a violation" (, 2/26).
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