On the morning of the first day of the Ed O'Bannon trial—a case that many think (or hope) might lead to groundbreaking changes in college athletics—the NCAA announced that it has reached a $20 million settlement in a different EA Sports video game lawsuit, per an official press release.
The lawsuit in question was filed by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller and was scheduled to go to trial in March 2015. The NCAA has now asked that the trial be stayed.
"With the games no longer in production and the plaintiffs settling their claims with EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, the NCAA viewed a settlement now as an appropriate opportunity to provide complete closure to the video game plaintiffs," said NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy in a statement.
The $20 million in the settlement would be paid to "certain Division I men’s basketball and Division I Bowl Subdivision football student-athletes who attended certain institutions during the years the games were sold," per the release. It is not clear what criteria will be used to select who receives compensation and how much they receive.
However, Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, who is covering the O'Bannon trial, says some of the money could go to current college athletes:
Despite how it sounds, though, Remy and the NCAA do not think this would constitute payment for athletic performance, per the release:
Consistent with the terms of a court-approved settlement, the NCAA will allow a blanket eligibility waiver for any currently enrolled student-athletes who receive funds connected with the settlement. In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance.
This settlement marks a much smoother resolution than we're seeing in the O'Bannon case, which, again, began its long-awaited trial Monday afternoon in Oakland.
O'Bannon and his team are trying to prove that "the NCAA member schools illegally restrained trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act by collectively preventing college athletes from controlling and selling their own publicity rights," per Marc Edelman of Forbes.com.
If U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken rules in favor of the O'Bannon plaintiffs, it could open the door for current and future college athletes to be compensated for their names, images and likenesses. Such a change would seemingly run contrary to the NCAA's current "amateurism" model, which prohibits student-athletes from receiving any compensation beyond the value of a scholarship.
So, yes, the NCAA has put out one fire by settling the Keller case. But the O'Bannon lawsuit still looms larger.
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