Although the walls are still very much intact, you can see the cracks beginning to spider at a hurried pace in the NCAA.
Slowly but surely, brick by brick, the barriers are beginning to show their wear. The tables are being turned on an organization that’s grown accustomed to being in complete control, and a new era of collegiate athletics could very well be on the horizon.
Still, there is much to be done before it all comes toppling downward. And, for now, it will continue to slowly chip away.
On Tuesday, Judge Claudia Wilken dismissed a motion from the NCAA that intended to keep college basketball and football players from legally pursuing a cut of the television revenue, both past and present, according to ESPN.com.
Relax, and don’t go running down your street without pants just yet (assuming that would be the appropriate reaction). Johnny Manziel isn’t getting a fat check from the NCAA in the coming months, but the fight for current and former players to do so will wage on.
The Ed O'Bannon lawsuit—which was originally unveiled in 2009—has picked up steam and has also become much grander in scale. It has been greatly altered since its inception, and last year, it was modified to include current NCAA football and basketball players. Originally, it centered on former athletes wanting a piece of the rebroadcasting and likeness pie.
While the NCAA viewed these modifications as a great way to stop this from progressing any further, the California court said otherwise. Each side, of course, still showed confidence following the ruling, although the players and former players clearly had some extra pep in their step.
"Now the (NCAA and its co-defendants) are facing potential liability that's based on the billions of dollars in revenue instead of tens or hundreds of millions," said Michael Hausfeld, interim lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "It's a more accurate context for what the players deserve."
On the other side, NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy remained stoic despite the decision, saying:
Although our motion to strike was denied, the judge has signaled skepticism on plaintiff's class-certification motion and recognized the plaintiffs' radical change in their theory of the case. This is a step in the right direction toward allowing the NCAA to further demonstrate why this case is wrong on the law and that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that this case satisfies the criteria for class litigation.
As it stands, a class certification hearing will be set for June 20. If it gets this far—and that’s still up in the air—things could get very, very interesting. Make no mistake about it, there’s still a long way to go before players are accurately compensated for their work.
The NCAA could very well file another brief, this time focusing on the issues at hand and not “procedural objections.” If this happens, that June 20 date may not matter and this suit may drag out even further. At the rate this has moved to even get to this point, that would be far from shocking.
Translation: Circle your calendar, but do so in pencil.
Although many will perceive Tuesday’s ruling as a “game changer,” that is far from the immediate outcome. The headline is attention grabbing, and this is great news for the plaintiffs. But that is only because they are allowed to keep fighting. It’s yet another barrier knocked down and conquered, and one less wall to get through. The perception that the ultimate breakthrough is somehow close to occurring, however, is false.
It is certainly closer to happening now, but many dominos still have to fall in order for serious change to be implemented. Yet while I will keep the champagne on ice (for now), the last few weeks have been telling.
In this time, we watched the NCAA sheepishly admit to botching one of the largest infraction cases in recent memory. The investigation into Miami has been put on hold, as an investigation…into the investigation has taken center stage. The entire case is now in limbo, and more courtroom appearances could be in the NCAA’s future, depending on how the ruling comes down—if it ever comes down.
It is now a week later, and I hope NCAA President Mark Emmert has a Costco bottle of Pepto-Bismol handy.
The latest developments when it comes to the Ed O’Bannon suit are far different than his organization’s glaring issues with policing its schools, but it does add yet another offseason item to his checklist. It’s not exactly an item he’s eagerly anticipating, either. At this point, those are hard to come by.
While the NCAA generally does a fine job in its daily operations, it fails mightily in both enforcement and fair compensation for the athletes that make the cogs turn. There have been rumblings surrounding both of these issues building for decades, but there have rarely been any actual developments on either front.
In the past seven days, though, we’ve seen both. They are two very different battles, but both are gaining steam.
Although enforcement will likely get an overhaul of some kind in the near future—which it desperately needs—the death of amateurism would radically alter collegiate athletics as we know it.
This change may or may not get its deserved day in court come summer, but for now, that’s the plan.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding this case and an eventual ruling, the NCAA’s comfort zone is shrinking rapidly. While we hope for meaningful change to come—and for the radical to seem feasible—the cracks will continue to become more pronounced.
And, as we’ve done all along, we will continue to watch and wait.
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