Even though U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against the NCAA in the Ed O’Bannon case Friday – which should be cause for celebration among those who found the NCAA’s model antiquated and unjust – Scott Ferrall wonders if the public, after years of countless O’Bannon headlines, still cares about this case and this issue.
“That may be, but people will care about it in terms of its impact – and the impact of this is not going to be felt yet for a while,” USA Today Sports Projects reporter and editor Steve Berkowitz said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I think there (will be) appeals on it. So if you think the case has been going on for a long time now – it’s been going on for five years – you’ve got a few more years left to go. I’ll be very surprised if the NCAA doesn’t appeal this. That doesn’t mean that appeal will go anywhere, but if it does, you’re looking at several years more of appeals and litigation before you come to a final conclusion on this.”
Ferrall, who has been following this trial since Day One, asked Berkowitz if he agreed with the ruling.
“It’s hard for me as a person who’s not a lawyer to say whether I agree or disagree with the ruling,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m not surprised by specifics that she’s decided. What I’m not surprised by is she issued an injunction. I’m not surprised that she ruled against the NCAA on a certain level. I’m also not surprised that she did not grant the plaintiffs everything that they had hoped for – everything they had wanted – and sort of ended up with a middle ground. I don’t think the NCAA necessarily views this as a middle ground, but it certainly isn’t what the plaintiffs wanted, either. And to me, that part of it is not surprising.”
College football and men’s basketball players still cannot accept payment for autographs, for example.
“I think the plaintiffs had been hoping for a more unfettered, unlimited kind of market place,” Berkowitz said. “The judge did place some caps and some limits on what schools would be forced to have to do should this go forward.”
Still, this was a horrible week for the NCAA, right? It ceded a great deal of control to the Power 5 conferences Thursday and it lost the O’Bannon case Friday.
Berkowitz, however, doesn’t feel that either ruling spells doom and gloom for the NCAA.
“If they did not create a model under which schools in the Power 5 conferences would be able to determine some of their own rules, there was the prospect of those schools breaking entirely from the association as it currently exists,” Berkowitz said. “Now, I don’t know whether that would necessarily be good or bad for everybody involved, so in that sense, it’s hard to say. (But) I’m not sure that what happened Thursday is necessarily a bad day for the NCAA.”
“(Friday) is probably not the best day for the NCAA, but it could have been a lot worse,” Berkowitz continued. “They will be able to fight another day. Even if this ruling were to stay in place over time, the cost of it to schools will be such that I think they could manage it. I mean, nobody is forced to do anything under the ruling, but schools would be allowed to do certain things – and the money those schools are getting, don’t forget, (is) going up and up and up and up.”