Monday, June 24, 2013

NCAA: Come On Man

It seems like everyone has an opinion on the Ed O'Bannon case which is currently pending in California.  Class certification was argued last week before Judge Claudia Wilkin.  The result of that case could have a profound impact on college sports.  For full disclosure, I represent Tyrone Prothro, who is one of the class representatives in that case.

Here are some "come on man" facts:

1.  Student-Athlete:  Where was this term derived?  It is a fiction created out of thin air by Walters Byers (more on him later) to deflect attempts to pay workers compensation benefits to injured players.

2.  Tax exempt status:  College Sports enjoys tax free status because it is not a commercial enterprise.   Hmmm.  Does that pass the smell test?

3.  Olympics:   "Dead in Eight Years."  This is what was said about allowing professionals in the Olympics.  That certainly didn't happen.  The Olympics are more popular than ever.

4.  Bill Russell, Oscar Robinson, Harry Flourney:  These are others who have joined the lawsuit.  Does anyone really think that it is OK for the NCAA, EA Sports, et. al to make money off video games that use the images of guys that never even played when there were video games?  For those of you who don't know Harry Flourney, he was the captain of the Texas Western team from 1966 who defeated Kentucky for the NCAA championship.  How is it that when they used his image in the movie "Glory Road" they had to get his permission and he was compensated, but the NCAA and EA don't even have to ask his permission.

5.  $3000 in pocket change:  This is not what the players receive, or has even been put on the table as part of the "full scholarship" sideshow.  No, this is what some National Merit Scholars get from some Universities to attend--and they are generating revenue how???

6.  Laughing:  What Judge Wilkin appeared to do when NCAA lawyers tried to argue that the billions they were getting was for access to their venues.

7.  Walter Byers:  Don't know who he is?  For 37 years, he ran the NCAA.    He coined the term "student athlete."  He created the enforcement department at the NCAA.  He fought Jerry Tarkanian.  He pushed for (and got)  the tax exempt status.  He negotiated  50 plus multi-million dollar media contracts.  What does he say?  At the end of his career he wrote a book called Unsportsmanlike Conduct.  In 1997, he argued  that college sports had become a high dollar commercial enterprise and argued that athletes should have the same access to free markets as coaches and colleges.  Wow!

Look, we all love our college teams.  We have team spirit.  The status quo is good for us as we tailgate and watch the sport get better and better.  However, exploitation is ugly.  The NCAA's "amateurism" now really looks like a blatant money grab and restraint of trade.  The emails that have been unsealed in the case expose the hypocrisy at the NCAA.   The bubble almost burst with the Michigan Fab 5. Now seems clear that a giant meteor is headed right at the NCAA.  Can they avoid the direct hit and the ultimate fallout.  Time will tell, but if their actions are any indication, they still don't believe there are such things as meteors.
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