Former UCLA Bruin Ed O’Bannon and friends are taking a personal lawsuit to a whole different level. After filing against the NCAA for using their names and images for profit, without giving them a penny, the group now seeks to turn the suit into a class action, ramping up the NCAA’s possible liability exponentially.
There are all sorts of strategic reasons for the athletes’ decision; not the least of which is getting the biggest slice of the pie as the class representatives should any money get turned over. But with all the pressure the NCAA could be facing, this sounds like John Calipari’s chance to say, “I told you so,” because he’s been an advocate for paying players for years.
Don’t remember? Check out this Deadspin article from a couple years ago where Cal talks about this exact thing:
[NCAA schools] didn’t want to spend the money. … There should be a living expense that an athlete gets to go to a school. Some will say, ‘Well they get a Pell!’ That’s the poor kids. Three of the kids I have on my team now aren’t poor enough to get the Pell, but their parents don’t have money to send to them. … What do you do with those kids?
The NCAA says that scholarships should be enough, and paying these kids would “ruin amateur athletics.” But would it really? And even if they think that, if this class gets certified and goes to trial, the ramifications might be more expensive than they can afford.
The issue isn’t necessarily that the athletes weren’t getting paid, it’s that the schools were. If this was a D-2 basketball program that was struggling to sell tickets (unlike UCLA, a D-1 program struggling to sell tickets), this wouldn’t be an issue. But the schools that these athletes attend are raking in millions of dollars, and the athletes are getting in trouble for selling their own stuff. So, just to be clear: the athletes aren’t allowed to use their popularity for monetary benefit, but the schools can?
Cal, ever the visionary, might well have predicted a scenario like this one. He certainly helped out the NCAA by suggesting the solution long before this was ever so big a problem, though. For that, they should probably thank him.
Buuuut I bet they won’t.