The NCAA attempted to have a court case filed by former players thrown out in court. The former players led by Ed O’Bannon want to recoup some of the broadcast right fee revenue that has only been shared by the NCAA and member institutions. This initially focused on re-broadcasts of games, but now a new ruling from Judge Claudia Wilken is signaling that players (former and current) can go ahead with their antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA. So what does this mean exactly? If, and that is still a big if, but if the NCAA loses this lawsuit, it could mean that the face of collegiate sport as we know it could change forever. It would also mean that the NCAA could be held liable for hundreds of millions (or even billions) of dollars in revenue to be paid back to former student-athletes. That would be in addition to having to potentially split some of the broadcast revenues from here on out with student-athletes in those events. If such events were to transpire, this could mean that many programs which need their current level of revenue from broadcast right revenue would find themselves short of money, and that they would probably find themselves in the red. I would anticipate athletic departments either going into the red, or making cuts to many programs on campus in an attempt to stay financially stable.
What would all of this mean? It would be a major sweeping change in athletics, and the financial and economic structure of how the NCAA and member athletic departments do business. It would also make things more interesting as it would push forward the discussion of whether a student-athlete is an employee or not. Many argue both sides of this, with discussion of whether the National Letter of Intent which all student-athletes sign is a contract or not.
This is still in its early stages, and is sure to be battled in court for quite some time. With that said, I’m sure many in the NCAA and athletics are probably sweating a bit after today’s ruling.