Athletics Department paying attention to O’Bannon v. NCAA

Lucas Aulbach

An ongoing lawsuit in Oakland, Calif. could have a big impact on NCAA athletics in the future, and WKU Athletics Director Todd Stewart said he’s keeping an eye on the situation.

The Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA case recently passed its class certification hearing and is expected to continue to make ripples across the college athletics landscape as its merits as a class action lawsuit are debated.

O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in 2009 over the way his collegiate image has been licensed after seeing his image used in an NCAA basketball video game produced by EA Games.

O’Bannon claims athletes deserve compensation for their images being used and student-athletes should be allowed to enter license agreements. He has been joined in the lawsuit by several former NCAA athletes since then.

The actual trial could be more than a year away, but judges will soon rule as to whether to certify the class action suit and let it move on in the courts.

Stewart said he has spoken with other athletics directors across the NCAA about the matter and he’s waiting for the courts to make a ruling.

“I certainly understand from the licensing standpoint, and what that lawsuit’s about is about the NCAA using player likenesses to drive revenue beyond publicizing ticket sales for events and things like that,” he said. “Ultimately, the courts will decide what they can and cannot do.”

Stewart also noted that while student-athletes are not paid for their services, they are compensated by other means such as scholarships.

“I think sometimes one thing that gets lost in the shuffle a little bit is the actual value of a scholarship,” he said. “If you’re a student athlete from the state of Kentucky and you factor in the value of your scholarship, room, board, tuition, books, etc., it’s about a $19,000 a year value. If you’re from out of state, it’s about a $29,000 a year value. So, over the course of four years if you’re on an athletic scholarship, whether you’re in state or from out of state, you’re looking at an $80,000 to $120,000 value on that. So that’s a lot of money in value.”