Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

July 29, 2013

Column: O'Bannon's likeness lawsuit challenges the structure of college sports


The vaunted NCAA has become a victim of its own success. It has long operated as an organization built around the principle of amateurism. According to Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal counsel, that’s what is at stake in the O’Bannon case. “However, the plaintiff’s lawyers in the likeness case now want to make this about professionalizing a few student athletes to the detriment of others,” he said in a statement released to the media.

It had to be encouraging to O’Bannon’s legal team when the NCAA recently announced that it was severing its ties with EA Sports and the video company could no longer use the NCAA name or logo on its games.

Steve Berman, legal counsel for the plaintiffs, said it’s clear “the pressure over litigation” got to the NCAA.

The fact is athletes at the high-profile universities aren’t getting a fair shake, even though a four-year ride is valued at $100,000 and up.

College athletic directors and presidents must have gasped when they heard Maryland football coach Randy Edsall take the players' side. During amedia function he said he would “most definitely” join the lawsuit if he were a player because he was concerned that schools are making money off players while the kids get nothing. Ouch!

The lawsuit battle comes at the same time the NCAA is increasingly pressured to develop more responsive leadership. But how is that possible when mega-conference restructuring continues and schools with missions and budgets as varied as Michigan State and Morehead State fall under the same umbrella?

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive summed up issues facing colleges and the NCAA this way:  “As Albert Einstein once said, ‘We can’t solve the problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’ ”

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