A federal court judge has denied an NCAA motion attempting to prevent college football and basketball players the ability to pursue a share of the live television revenues. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2009, had initially sought only rebroadcasted revenues.
The judge’s ruling on Tuesday is in response to a class action lawsuit filed by former UCLA standout Ed O’Bannon and others. Judge Claudia Wilken rejected the defendant’s notion that players should be barred from seeking both monetary earnings, further giving the lawsuit legs. However, Wilken also stated that the class of defendants must first be certified by the court for the issue to go to a jury.
According to ESPN’s Tom Farrey, the ruling “raises the stakes” in this heated legal issue as the NCAA attempts to continue its economic model. The NCAA must now argue the merits of class certification rather than opposing it on procedural objections.
Michael Hausfeld, lead counsel for plaintiffs O’Bannon, et al., explained the significance of the ruling. According to Hausfeld, "Now the (NCAA and its co-defendants) are facing potential liability that's based on the billions of dollars in revenue instead of tens or hundreds of millions. It's a more accurate context for what the players deserve."
The NCAA, however, saw the ruling in a glass-half-full light. In a statement issued by NCAA general counsel Donald Remy, the defendants feel the ruling is a partial win.
"Although our motion to strike was denied,” Remy said, “the judge has signaled skepticism on plaintiff's class-certification motion and recognized the plaintiffs' radical change in their theory of the case. This is a step in the right direction toward allowing the NCAA to further demonstrate why this case is wrong on the law and that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that this case satisfies the criteria for class litigation."
A hearing on the motion to certify has been set for June 20.
If the plaintiff’s lawsuit prevails, a device used to contrive player revenues has been created by Hausfeld. Known as the Former College Athlete Association (FCAA), the mechanism would negotiate licensing revenues with the NCAA, colleges and universities and media companies.