The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 11, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Bannon suit could change NCAA landscape

MORGANTOWN — It showed up out of nowhere, unexpectedly landing in what is today’s version of a mail box, this public correspondence from West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck on the school’s athletic website, labeled “An Open Letter to Mountaineer Nation.”

It is a well-written, well-thought-out analysis of the Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit against the NCAA, which challenges that group’s right to exclusively market the names, images and likenesses of Division I football and men’s basketball players.

With that said, its purpose is far less to inform than it is to deliver a warning, as evidenced by a pair of statements carried within the main text:

“This case has the potential to change fundamentally the 100-year-old relationship between student-athletes and their universities,” Luck writes at one point.

And then he closes his letter with this:

“My advice is to buckle up, Mountaineer fans, because the issues that will be resolved over the next few months, including O’Bannon, autonomy and full cost of attendance (players’ scholarships), very well may change the landscape in college athletics.”

The use of the term “buckle up” would indicate he expects a bumpy road fraught with danger should the NCAA lose the case.

Luck says this has the potential to be the most influential court case ever involving the NCAA, challenging the 1984 Oklahoma vs. the NCAA case, which stripped the NCAA from its right to market the television appearances of its member schools and instead turned that over to the conferences, which has led directly to the way it is marketed today with modern conferences working out deals with ESPN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS or even going so far as to create their own conference networks.

“One could argue,” writes Luck, “that this ‘strong conference’ arrangement led to the recent moves in realignment (including our move to the Big 12) and the ever-louder call for autonomy by the 65 schools in the so-called highly visible conferences — Pac 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Big 12.”

This move toward a breakaway by the top schools seems to be favored by most of the power schools, including WVU, and appears to be the direction college sports is going to have to move in for the goals and the reach of the power conferences now differ greatly from those of their powerful brothers.

Without going so far as to predict a future growing out of O’Bannon prevailing in his case, Luck directs readers to a Sports Illustrated article by University of New Hampshire law school professor Michael McMann that clearly sums up the particulars of an O’Bannon victory.

• Student-athletes would remain students, not employees.

• Scholarships would still be capped as they are now.

• Few college players would become rich, even though they would have the right to sell their image or do commercials either locally as football coach Dana Holgorsen and basketball coach Bob Huggins now do or nationally as Alabama football coach Nick Saban or others do.

• The business of sports agents would change, perhaps even to the point of allowing college players to join the NFL and NBA players associations, groups that regulate the behavior of agents.

• A rise in participation in the Former College Athletes Association, could determine how much a former college athlete should be compensated for the use of his name and image.

• There is the potential for Title IX lawsuits, which seem inevitable if O’Bannon wins.

• College athletic budgets would shrink (the players taking a piece of the TV revenues that Luck refers to as “the mother’s milk for the conferences and their members” but without shrinking the money paid to the coaches because of the competitiveness of the market for their services).

• The NCAA would not disappear. It is not liable for damages in this suit and the service it performs in controlling fraudulent conduct by its members is vital.

Let us understand that a victory by O’Bannon, while it might change much about college athletics, would probably be more so in the non-revenue sports than football and basketball. In fact, if it leads to the power conferences breaking off on their own, that might be a good thing for, at least they will be able to be what they are without any pretenses.

If WVU doesn’t play William & Mary or Georgia State, does not football become better rather than worse? If your son or daughter can wear a WVU jersey that not only has the No. 5 on the back, but the name “White” for Pat White, does that make him or her that much happier?

In truth, players in these “gold mine” sports have been taken advantage of for years, going without compensation in a setting where a coach making $2 million to $6 million is given free use of a car is as utterly insane as a football or basketball coach making so much more than a professor turning out doctors and scientists rather than athletes.

Make no doubt, Luck is right. Change is in the air and, hopefully, the change will take the façade away from college sports and allow it to be what it is, not an arm of an academic institution but, instead, a world unto itself that is simply another business that should be run as such.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Harrison’s 4 hits leads Pirates past Rockies, 7-5

    Josh Harrison had four hits, including a tiebreaking homer, to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 on Sunday.

    July 27, 2014

  • MLB inducts newest members into Hall of Fame

    Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.

    July 27, 2014

  • Post 17 falls short of Area II championship

    Sometimes getting a bad game out of your system is what a team needs.

    July 27, 2014

  • Italy’s Nibali wins Tour de France

    Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to triumph in cycling’s greatest race by chiseling a lead over his main rivals a few seconds at a time and dominating them in the mountains.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: La Russa gives old pal Leyland a taste of Hall of Fame

    Jim Leyland didn’t expect it, at least not yet, but there he was in Cooperstown, New York for this week’s induction ceremony.

    July 27, 2014

  • JAMES UNDER RAINBOW -TS.jpg Post 17 plays itself into Area II championship game: PHOTOS

    The goal was simple for Post 17 Fairmont: Beat Bridgeport and advance to the state American Legion Tournament. But it left with more than a state tournament berth Saturday night at East Fairmont High School.
    After beating Bridgeport, 11-8, Fairmont secured a spot in next week’s state tournament. But with one challenge down, Fairmont moved on to the next: Playing itself into an area championship game.

    July 27, 2014 14 Photos

  • Knowing facts key to preventing sports injuries

    Youth sports injuries have been on the rise in recent years, leading parents, players and coaches asking one thing: How can we prevent these things from happening?
    A recent poll on the Times West Virginian website revealed that 41.8 percent of readers believe that there is no way to prevent injuries, while 26.47 percent said the best way to prevent injuries was to not play at all and 20.59 percent said that working hard was the best way to limit injuries.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • Pirates fall victim to Rockies, 8-1

    Nolan Arenado bounced back from a benching with three hits, including a home run, and the Colorado Rockies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Saturday night.
    Tyler Matzek pitched three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings. Drew Stubbs and Corey Dickerson also homered for the Rockies, who have won three straight.

    July 27, 2014

  • Post 17 plays itself into Area II championship game

    The goal was simple for Post 17 Fairmont: beat Bridgeport and advance to the state American Legion Tournament. But it left with more than a state tournament berth Saturday night at East Fairmont High School.

    July 26, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos