Back in 1995, Ed O’Bannon was at the top of his game, leading the UCLA Bruins to a National Championship while earning Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament. He went on to be drafted by the then-New Jersey Nets with great fanfare.
That, unfortunately, was the pinnacle of his NBA experience as a three-year career in the league was mostly filled with discussion about what he was supposed to be due to really bad knees, poor player development and loss of confidence.
But in 2009 O’Bannon agreed to allow himself to become the lead plaintiff against the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company in a lawsuit alleging the violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act after his image and likeness were used in the NCAA Basketball video game from EA Sports.
This resulted in a $40 million settlement to be given to nearly 100,000 current and former collegiate athletes whose likenesses were used in EA Sports video games since 2003.
That settlement led to the end of NCAA Football series and allowed schools to pay athletes up to $5,000 for a year to use their names. However, that was overturned on appeal.
Though rub had always been that the NCAA gave itself permission to profit off the likenesses of players while forbidding them from doing so themselves. The hypocrisy was so thick a nose-less man could smell the stench a mile away.
However, that may be about to change as the NCAA is currently mulling over giving players the ability to profit off their own likeness.
The NCAA is forming a committee to “explore” the concept of allowing athletes to be compensated for the use of their own name, image, and likeness and still maintain eligibility.
“This group will bring together diverse opinions from the membership — from presidents and commissioners to student-athletes — that will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education,” said Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, who is heading up the group. “We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.”
While that’s cool, it has been made clear that the committee will not discuss ways to pay students directly, as in an employer-employee paradigm.
“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” Ohio State AD Gene Smith said, per ESPN. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”