Oakland, CA, United States (4E Sports) – After nearly five years of waiting, the trial that will determine whether NCAA must pay college athletes for its use of their likenesses in television broadcasts, video games and other consumer products will finally proceed Monday.
The trial, which will have former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon as star witness, will begin in Oakland, California after more than two dozen lawyers filed some 1,300 related court documents since 2009.
It comes after numerous NCAA attempts to terminate O’Bannon’s quest, all of them unsuccessful. It comes after the case has been consolidated, de-consolidated and partially settled.
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, appointed to the Northern District court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, will decide the case, expected to last about three weeks, instead of a jury.
The trial will happen while power conferences take in more than a billion dollars in a single year and numerous head coaches are paid $7 million per year.
“O’Bannon represents a watershed moment for the NCAA,” said Northeastern University School of Law professor Roger Abrams.
“When combined with the Northwestern football team unionization effort, the case raises the question whether the NCAA must totally re-conceptualize its approach to regulating college athletics,” he added.
Aside from O’Bannon’s lawsuit, 24 other legal actions are pending against the NCAA, all of them seeking a sharing of wealth in one form or another.
In the “Kessler case”, current players are seeking what was once unthinkable — an injunction that would eliminate the NCAA’s bar against paying salaries and force big-time football and basketball schools to pay players in addition to granting scholarships.
In addition, NCAA officials also are preparing to intervene in a historic proceeding before the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. where a five-member board is reviewing a decision made in Chicago that Northwestern University football players are employees and can form a union.
Despite growing pressures for change from numerous directions, Donald Remy, the executive vice president and chief legal officer of the NCAA, said the league will stand by its rules.
“Our rules are designed to maintain the distinctive character of college athletics, and we will defend them,” he said.