You may have heard about the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA. Or, like me, you might not have really heard much about it until several sports writers tweeted about it yesterday.
But it's a big one for sports gamers -- much less anyone remotely involved in college athletics.
You probably have heard about the Sam Keller vs. NCAA lawsuit on how the NCAA handles licensing athlete's likenesses in video games. Well O'Bannon vs. NCAA is along the same thread, and it has to do with the NCAA licensing former player likenesses to organizations for use.
And now the lawsuit of O'Bannon vs. NCAA is moving forward.
What it means is that the NCAA's amateurism ideas are going to be put to an extreme test at least once and probably twice over the coming months. The NCAA's claims to protect amateurism and to protect student athletes from exploitation will almost certainly be unfounded when their account books face some scrutiny.
The implications for NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball (if it's still going to be a game), and NCAA Baseball (if we ever see one again) could be huge.
If O'Bannon wins his lawsuit, Keller would have a great chance, after a lot of legal wrangling, to win his as well since the fundamental claims are pretty similar with the exception one deals with former athletes and the other deals with current. And the NCAA's claim of protecting amateurism would pretty much be put to sleep as well, so college athletics themselves would be forever changed.. The next question for everyone would be, what happens in a post lawsuit world if the judges side with the athletes?
In the O'Bannon case, classic teams with accurate rosters would be a huge no-no in sports gaming. In the Keller case, athletes that even remotely resemble their real life counterparts would be considered taboo in college games, and part of Keller's claim is against customization as well. So custom rosters just might go the way of the dodo. However, that's assuming the NCAA survives the legal onslaught and somehow still is able to maintain it's claim of 'protecting' amateur athletes. There is a small chance the NCAA might be required to compensate athletes in licensing deals (or they might not be around to police licensing deals anymore) which might open the door up to real names and likenesses being used instead of the old number system.
For a lack of a better term, the future is clearly fuzzy for the NCAA. When you step into the world of the legalese, you can never be too cautious when predicting outcomes, and these cases are no exception. Since these things typically take forever to decide, we'll stay on top of these stories at OS. However, don't expect any firm resolution for quite some time.