In the case of Ed O'Bannon (yes, that Ed O'Bannon that excited everyone as a UCLA player in the 1996 Final Four, then did not a whole lot afterwards) vs. NCAA, he is suing (with some pretty notable defendants, including Bill Russell) for proceeds they are gaining for his likeness.
In particular, they are looking for proceeds from their likeness in EA Sports NCAA Basketball Video Game, where they are listed as players on former championship teams.
The NCAA in their defense of the case, brought on additional problems for themselves, as the issue TV rights, and the use of NCAA player likenesses on TV, and proper compensation for it, have become the larger (and potentially seriously financially damaging for the NCAA) issue in the case.
This is the basics of the case, for further more in depth information as to the exact details and the legal proceedings, you can go here, here, or here.
Ultimately, the question I want to raise here, is should NCAA athletes get paid, and should the be paid while in school? What should they be paid for?
I think most of us know and think to some extent, that NCAA athletes should be paid for some of the product they are putting on the field, court, etc. But how? AND Where does that stop?
Those that do not believe that NCAA athletes should be paid, usually believe they are already receiving financial benefits through the form of full scholarships. They are also adding to their "resume" for their future jobs in professional athletics.
However, their just seems to be something inherently wrong in the way the NCAA uses the players, with no actual monetary compensation, and reap tremendous financial benefits. Below is an excerpt from Sports Illustrated highlighting what the NCAA and College Conferences earn from TV rights alone:
The SEC's new 15-year television contracts with ESPN and CBS are the richest (per year) in college sports. For some perspective, here's the reported value of the current network/national cable contracts for the nation's major conferences:
• ESPN: 15 years, $2.25 billion
• CBS: 15 years, $825 million
(Both deals run through 2023-2024.)
• Big Ten Network: 25 years, $2.8 billion* through 2031-32
• ABC/ESPN: 10 years, $1 billion through 2016
• CBS: 10 years, $20 million for basketball through 2018-19
• ABC/ESPN: Seven years, $258 million
• Raycom Sports: 10 years, $300 million for basketball
(Both run through 2010-11.)
• ABC/ESPN: Eight years, $480 million through 2015-16
• Fox Sports Net: Four years, $78 million through 2011-12
• ABC/ESPN: Five years, $125 million for football
• Fox Sports Net: Five years, $97 million for football
• ABC/ESPN: Six years, $52.5 million for basketball
(All run through 2011-12.)
• ABC/ESPN: Six years, $200 million through 2013
• Comcast/CBS College Sports/The Mtn.: Seven years, $82 million through 2013-14
• CBS College Sports: Six years, $45.8 million
• ESPN: Six years, $22 million through 2010-11
Exact terms for the MAC, WAC and Sun Belt could not be located. * -- projected revenue Source: Sports Business Journal
So if we are to say that players should be paid, then which ones and how much? I think in the case of former players, who are now professional either in their sport or another field, and are having their likeness being used in NCAA advertisements, and league sponsored video games, apparel, etc. there should definately be royalties issued to them, no questions asked, and with this, the actual case of O'Bannon seems to be open and shut.
It becomes more difficult however when it encroaches upon live TV rights, and thus players who are currently amateurs and held to NCAA guidelines.
One of the better arguments that I have seen is that any money made from live TV rights should be placed into a trust for each individual student, to be given to them upon their leaving the university. This then would stop them from living like kings on campus (even more then they already do) and making terrible decisions based on abundance of monies and lack of maturity.
The only issue I see with this is that fact that, as highlighted above, certain conferences earn more money, therefore more royalties for the players, and then it becomes a recruiting tool. To some extent, it already is a recruiting tool, the amount of exposure you get playing in say the SEC instead of the WAC, but this would put an actual dollar amount on it.
And then where does it stop. If the floodgates open, are they able to close before the issue of stipends comes into play. As a result of this case, the NCAA has already increased the amount of the annual monies each player gets for meals etc. If this was ever challenged, as an extension to the issues in the O'Bannon case, then the NCAA easily becomes a paid player enterprise. Parity will be gone, and a lot of other, more unscroupulous issues arise.
Or does it do just the opposite. Does it give players the means to live happily while playing, without the recruiting violations and etc. that have marred so many programs over the last three decades. It is a known fact that a lot of money is out there for these athletes, even if they do not get it through NCAA means. This puts a black cover over the games in many ways, in much the same way that PEDs have.
So then how is this problem rectified? Feel free to comment and open a dialog. I believe there should be some compensation from the money the NCAA is making off of them, perhaps a fixed amount, not based on conference or number of television appearances. The NCAA loves to show their commercials about how 90% of athletes will start a career in something other then sports, and what a better way to help this become a reality then to give them a nice trust check on graduation day.