SBD/August 12, 2014/Colleges

NCAA Still Concerned Over Ruling In O'Bannon Case, Asks If Applies To Current Athletes

Bowlsby said the injunction strikes a middle ground between the two sides
Citing concerns by member schools, the NCAA has "asked a federal judge for an 'urgent clarification' about when the injunction starts in the Ed O'Bannon ruling," according to Jon Solomon of CBSSPORTS.com. In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken wrote the injunction "would not take effect until the start of the next recruiting cycle and would not affect any recruit who will enroll in college before July 1, 2016." The NCAA in a letter wrote, "This has prompted concerns among colleges and universities that the injunction might, contrary to the Court's opinion, apply immediately to current student-athletes." The NCAA wrote that it "believes Wilken's language to mean she is only referring to compensation for athletes first enrolling after July 1, 2016." But the NCAA has asked Wilken to "clarify the injunction won't start until Aug. 1, 2015, for players who enroll after July 1, 2016" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/11). Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby yesterday said Wilken's injunction "strikes a middle ground" by keeping payments to players within the college sports model. Bowlsby: "I'm not tremendously comfortable with any of it. I think it was a very nuanced and thoughtful decision and one that probably resides a lot closer to my philosophy of a student-athlete than what some of the other plaintiffs and others might view. I think there is reason for hope." Bowlsby added conferences and schools "are unnamed co-conspirators in this case." Bowlsby: "We're not defendants in this case. The NCAA is so that's their decision to make (about appealing). I just think there are issues that go beyond the current outcome." Bowlsby said that the ruling did "not move to anything that would be perceived as professional sports and that the 'collegiate model' remains largely intact" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/11). 

LAND OF CONFUSION: In S.F., Ann Killion writes, "I don't know exactly what last week's ruling ... means for college sports. But I'm certain of one thing: It has left everyone, on both sides, confused." For the moment, "all we're really left with are endless questions and the specter of more lawsuits" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/12). GRANTLAND's Charles Pierce wrote the "problem is that the section of the ruling concerning" the players' pay cap is "so unclear that whether the $5,000 number on the trust is a floor or a ceiling depends vitally on which Google link you happen to click." Lawyers from both sides are "howling for clarifications, and even the NCAA seems utterly baffled." Nothing about college sports "ever is going to be uncomplicated, it appears" (GRANTLAND.com, 8/11). But in L.A., Chris Dufresne writes the "picture is a tad clearer," and the ruling "wasn't, as it turned out, a crushing blow to the NCAA." Wilken's ruling was a "fairly reasonable assessment of the uncomfortable relationship between capitalism and the socialist-minded NCAA." She said that players should "be paid for use of their names, images and likeness while in college, yet fell short of turning college sports into the free-market Ayn Rand Institute." Dufresne writes the $5,000 cap "seems reasonable to me, and I don't see how it dramatically alters the landscape" (L.A. TIMES, 8/12).

IT'S ALWAYS SONNY: In N.Y., Joe Nocera writes former adidas, Nike and Reebok exec Sonny Vaccaro is "as responsible for the O'Bannon case as anyone." Vaccaro "first got the idea for the lawsuit in the late 1990s, around the time that ESPN bought Classic Sports Network" for $175M. The players in those games have "long since left college, yet they have no rights to their names and likenesses, just as had been the case when they were in school." Vaccaro wondered how that could "possibly be OK?" Vaccaro in '07 "quit his final job in the sneaker industry ... to devote his time to fighting the NCAA, an organization he had come to loathe." Vaccaro yesterday said, "Do I wish the decision had gone further? Sure. It vindicated people like me, who have been voices in the wilderness for so long" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/12).

POWER PLAY: The NCAA D-I BOD last week also voted to give autonomy to the Power 5 conferences, and Tulane AD Rick Dickson said that his university, along with the other American Athletic Conference programs, were "ready for the new governance structure." He said that Tulane will "adhere to what the Power Five decide to do with cost of attendance." Dickson: "We've been actively participating in the American Athletic Conference. So we've collectively discussed and taken positions on this. And I can tell you that unanimously all of our schools have voted to make certain that in the event that that legislation for cost of attendance takes place, we will concur with that. It kind of fits into our overall outlook and objective in our partnership with our student-athletes. We take care of our kids" (NOLA.com, 8/11). In Tucson, Greg Hansen notes athletes in the Power 5 are "likely to be given an extra $2,000 to $5,000 a year for expenses not covered by a typical scholarship." That is "spending money, which is overdue and well-deserved." The "most meaningful part of any potential revenue sharing will be extended medical and insurance benefits and common-sense care for a former athlete" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 8/12).

WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GUYS? In St. Paul, John Shipley writes, "What becomes of the college sports that aren't very big business?" Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said, "Post-ruling, there are going to be a lot of schools saying, 'How can we justify carrying these things forward?'" Univ. of Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson "concurs," and sees the NCAA "ready to commit more resources to football when most athletics departments already struggle to stay in the black." Anderson: "Any (baseball) team in the northern half of the country has to feel threatened" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/12).
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