Lawyer up, NCAA. Suits by two former athletes representing all former and current athletes will be headed to court in the coming month/years, and their effect on the landscape of college athletics could be substantial.
After the jump, find out how the court's decisions could affect the fan experience and what these suits might mean for amateurism at the college level. Got a legal opinion to share? Let me know. Got a fan perspective to offer? I'd love to hear it. Let's discuss.
The experts' take on the situation
Also known as: The part where I try not to screw up cutting and pasting other people's articles.
AOL Fanhouse blogger Clay Travis, a lawyer (yay!) and Tennessee fan (boo!), wrote a thorough breakdown of the case that former Nebraska and ASU QB Sam Keller has brought against the NCAA. On a micro level, Keller's suit involves player likenesses in video games. On a macro level, Keller's suit may mark the self-implosion of college sports as we know it.
What's at stake in Sam Keller's lawsuit? Only every game and every record featuring NCAA athletes in football and basketball over the past decade... As I read this lawsuit, I began to realize that it's much bigger than a video game, the lawsuit makes a really bold statement, it accuses the NCAA of violating their own rules of amateurism.
That's a huge story that no one is talking about.
Alongside Keller comes a lawsuit against the NCAA by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. O'Bannon's suit claims much of the same wrongdoings that Sam Keller's suit does, mainly the unauthorized use of player images and likenesses for Scrooge-like money-making by the NCAA.
Dan Wetzel has the perspective on this one:
The case could lead to former student-athletes getting a cut of the multi-billion dollar college sports revenue pool and dramatically impact the way college athletics operates.
Wetzel went so far as to Tweet that the outcome could be the impetus that leads to a college football playoff as the NCAA might be desperate for new ways to moneygrab if the courts rule in athletes' favor. CourtTV is the new Big Ten Network!
Each of these cases became a little more relevant this week as neither was thrown out by the courts nor settled out of court. Neverending court battles are upon us. Get your tax dollars ready.
What could these suits mean for college football fans? I'm glad you asked. Judging by the content of each of these stories, I put together a quick peek at three of the biggest changes that could happen, going in order from most likely to least likely. How would you respond to any of these changes taking place? Let me know in the comments.
The end of college football video games as we know them
The main argument in each case stems largely from the use of player likenesses in video games. The obvious solution: Stop making NCAA video games.
To paraphrase Clay Travis and spare you from reading five paragraphs of legalese, here's the gist: If the courts rule against the NCAA, athletes will need to be compensated for being represented in video games, compensating athletes means paying athletes, and paying athletes means the athletes are no longer amateurs. The NCAA cannot have that. Think of all the brochures they would need to re-print.
If video games are gone, where will I go to get my fix of running up the score on Fresno State with players I do not recognize?
College basketball games may already be on the outs, but the college football franchise is still very much alive and kicking. Would you miss having an annual version of NCAA Football on your Playstation or XBox? Fans of African-American Richie Brockel sure would.
The discontinuation of jersey sales
Another big moneymaker that exploits the popularity of amateur athletes is the sale of player jerseys. Sure, they don't have names on the back of them, but it does not take much deductive reasoning to connect the dots between No. 41, white, Fiesta Bowl-logoed jerseys and Ian Johnson.
As Clay Travis describes:
The universities and their sponsors make so much money off the players by not putting their names on the back (of jerseys). The NCAA collects the money for licensing the rights to the teams and the players, but the players get nothing. So they remain amateurs.
It doesn't seem fair, not that fairness has anything to do with college athletics. Depending on how the lawsuit goes, jersey sales could be the second domino to fall.
I cannot imagine that many fans would be happy with that. How many player jerseys do you have in your closet? If the alternative is copious amounts of "The Myth Is True ... Ducks Do Crash On The Blue" t-shirts, then we might have a problem.
The end of amateurism
The greatest outcome of this whole legal mess could be the end of amateurism as we know it. Take away amateurism and you don't have to get rid of NCAA video games or personalized jerseys. But then again, take away amateurism and you might screw up college sports forever.
Would you prefer to see amateurism go away and have players make money off their collegiate fame? How do you view college athletes? Would paying players be all that bad?