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College Sports, Division I, Education, Legal

NCAA Legal Update: Federal Judge Issues Decision in Ed O’Bannon Lawsuit

In a decision issued on Friday, August 8, 2014, United States District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the lawsuit filed by former UCLA men’s basketball student-athlete Ed O’Bannon. O’Bannon’s lawsuit challenged the NCAA’s ban on compensating athletes (specifically, O’Bannon sought to force the NCAA to provide student-athletes a share of the billions of dollars earned by college sports from live broadcasts, memorabilia sales, video games and in other areas). In her ruling, Judge Wilken determined a violation of federal antitrust law occurred when universities denied compensation to student-athlete in high-profile football (Division I-FBS) and Division I men’s basketball programs based on the use of the students’ names, images and likenesses in video games and television broadcasts. However, according to the New York Times, the Court’s ruling “left the college sports world with anything but clarity… with one seemingly critical portion of her 99-page ruling: a suggestion that universities might pay athletes via a trust fund that the athletes would gain access to once their college playing careers were complete, and that the N.C.A.A. could put a cap on how much the institutions could offer each player.” The NCAA pledged to appeal the ruling, but will request the Court to clarify a portion of the decision. The New York Times opines: “The clarity the N.C.A.A. seeks most likely concerns the substance of Wilken’s injunction. That ruling bars the N.C.A.A. from prohibiting any university from compensating athletes with at least grants-in-aid, or through trust funds the athletes would gain access to after their playing careers, in which payment could be capped by the N.C.A.A. at levels as low as $5,000 a year per athlete.”

The case is not over. As noted above, the NCAA will appeal the Court’s decision–which will be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The losing party in the Ninth Circuit appeal more than likely will request the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.

The district court’s ruling can be downloaded by clicking here.

For those interested in opinion and analysis of the decision, follow the following links:

“Q&A: What the O’Bannon ruling means for NCAA, schools and athletes”, Jon Solomon, CBS Sports.com

“N.C.A.A. Will Appeal the O’Bannon Ruling”, Marc Tracy, New York Times

“NCAA seeks clarification prior to appeal of O’Bannon case”, Steve Berkowitz and Thomas O’Toole, USA Today

“NCAA will appeal O’Bannon ruling”, Associated Press (via ESPN.com)

“N.C.A.A. Must Allow Colleges to Pay Athletes, Judge Rules”, Ben Strauss and Marc Tracy, New York Times

“99-Page Ruling in O’Bannon Case Is Missing Something: Clarity, Ben Strauss”, Steve Eder and Marc Tracy, New York Times


About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.


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