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O’Bannon trial concludes

NCAA reiterates value of college sports experience


The O’Bannon v. NCAA trial focused on student-athletes’ names, images and likenesses has concluded in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Below is a statement from Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer, regarding the value of the college sports model.

We believe the evidence presented at trial—including testimony by presidents, athletics directors, conference commissioners, experts, former student-athletes (including the plaintiffs) and NCAA staff—clearly demonstrates how the current collegiate model of amateur sports provides student-athletes an unparalleled opportunity to learn and earn a college degree.

Forcing changes through litigation to benefit only a select few would have far-reaching, detrimental effects on college sports as a whole, potentially reducing the opportunities for future generations of student-athletes to enjoy the benefits that make college sports special to its participants and fans.

College sports today provide valuable access to higher education; fund $2.7 billion each year in athletics scholarships; reinforce the importance of getting an education; and support a thriving and diverse college community.  The reality is student-athletes graduate at a higher rate than their non-athlete counterparts and earn higher initial wages after college. More than 460,000 student-athletes benefited from these unique opportunities just in this last school year. In addition, the collegiate model of sports is essential to maintaining competitive balance among schools in whichever division they choose to compete.

During the trial, we heard about the many benefits of an integrated academic and athletic experience, including academic support, quality coaching and mentoring. Importantly, this integrated experience produces long-lasting positive effects for all student-athletes, not just the small percentage that go on to play professional sports.

The NCAA is a member association whose colleges and universities set policy and implement reform.  We recognize that some aspects of the current rules need modification, and efforts to update those rules for all student-athletes are continually underway and were in progress long before this lawsuit. Just since 2011, 44 of 48 proposed reform measures for all Division I student-athletes have been adopted or are currently in progress, including multiyear scholarships, tougher academic standards and improved medical care.


NCAA witnesses and key facts

During the O’Bannon v. NCAA trial, the Association presented testimony and evidence that demonstrated the importance of protecting the collegiate model, which provides student-athletes with an opportunity to receive an education while competing against fellow students. Several renowned experts in economics and higher education supported the Association’s position.

Important facts and evidence from the trial:

  • None of the 50 states recognize name, image and likeness rights for a participant in the live broadcast of sporting events, including professional and Olympic telecasts.
  • There was undisputed testimony from both the plaintiffs’ and the NCAA’s broadcast experts that the issue of name, image and likeness in a live broadcast has never been raised when negotiating telecast agreements.
  • Student-athletes being compensated for name, image and likeness rights would isolate them from other student-athletes or general student body not receiving the same treatment.
  • As this is an antitrust case, it is important to note that NCAA rules maintain competitive balance, increase consumer choice and respond to consumer demand by providing a unique product.

NCAA witnesses:

  • Britton Banowsky, Conference USA commissioner
  • Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner
  • Michael Dennis, former managing director for government and academic research at market research firm GfK Custom Research, LLC and president of JMDSTAT Consulting
  • Diane Dickman, NCAA managing director of academic and membership affairs
  • Mark Emmert, NCAA president
  • James Heckman, professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the 2000 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics
  • Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president of championships
  • Bernard Muir, director of athletics at Stanford University
  • Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina
  • Todd Petr, NCAA managing director of research
  • Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president
  • Chris Plonsky, director of women’s athletics at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Daniel Rubinfeld, professor of law and professor of economics emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and professor of law at New York University
  • Greg Sankey, Southeastern Conference executive associate commissioner
  • Lauren Stiroh, antitrust economist and senior vice president of NERA Economic Consulting




What Happened: The three-week O’Bannon v. NCAA trial concluded on June 27. The NCAA believes the evidence at trial demonstrated that the current model of college sports, which is uniquely American, is an important and integral part of higher education. The plaintiffs’ efforts to professionalize certain student-athletes and separate them from the overall educational enterprise would severely diminish academic and athletic opportunities for the vast majority of student-athletes across all sports and divisions.

What's Next: The end of trial briefs from both the plaintiffs and defendants are due within the next two weeks, and Judge Claudia Wilken could issue a ruling in the case at any time.