The recent court ruling allowing former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon to move forward with his lawsuit has folks like me drooling in anticipation.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled this month dismissed the NCAA's motion to have the class action lawsuit dropped. O'Bannon, who went on to play in the NBA for the New Jersey Nets for a few years (he now works at a car dealership in Nevada ... that's a whole 'nother blog topic), is suing the NCAA and his former school for profiting off his likeness years after he left school.
At the crux of the issue is players' likeness in video games -- while the names may have been removed (da, da-daaa ... 'Dragnet' theme starts playing in the background), there is growing sentiment among players that the players on the fields and courts of EA Sports' bear a much too remarkable similarity to themselves.
Why journalists like me are drooling is because with the judge allowing this lawsuit to go forward, that means is that the discovery process by O'Bannon's attorneys (collecting evidence, taking depositions, etc.) should begin to reveal how student athletes’ current and future rights in their images are sold by their schools and the NCAA.
Colleges and the NCAA are notoriously tight-lipped about this issue because they can be. It's a nebulous area that's only gotten more complicated at technology has gotten better. And it's even tougher with private universities -- they love the fact that they don't have to tell us anything.
OK, I admit the latter is rightfully so -- they don't take public money so their budget shouldn't have to be public knowledge. But that doesn't mean the student athlete should get screwed in the deal.
By the way, I love the NCAA's statement on this: "The court’s … rulings at this preliminary stage of the cases do not diminish the N.C.A.A.’s confidence that we will ultimately prevail on all of the claims."
Uh, huh. Right.
Bottom line, says Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel is that the case could lead to former student athletes getting a cut of the multi-billion dollar college sports revenue pool and it could dramatically impact the way college athletics operates.
And to me that means we get to learn more about just how much the NCAA is making off its students -- and just how much money players like Kobe Bryant or Labron James saved themselves by skipping the whole deal. While we're talking years out, the revelations could be a devastating blow to the association that hopefully will end in reform.
And like I said, disclosure is a good thing.