I’m sure the NCAA president would like it to be about the way he handled Penn State or the reforms he’s been pushing, but Andy Staples points to a very different area:
When federal judge Claudia Wilken ruled in January that the O’Bannon plaintiffs could proceed with the class certification process, the panic level among the people who actually run college sports on a daily basis — the athletic directors and commissioners — rose to DEFCON 2. The plaintiffs have altered their legal strategy so that this case isn’t just about the use of former athletes’ likenesses in video games and DVDs. Now, it’s about whether the NCAA and its schools have the right to market the likenesses of former and current athletes for big money. If the class is certified in June, the NCAA would be fighting for its life in an antitrust trial that, if won by the plaintiffs, could bankrupt the NCAA. The other option is to settle, but that would also require a paradigm shift. To get the plaintiffs to drop the suit, the NCAA would have to allow athletes to get a chunk of the massive television money now flowing into college sports. That probably would require the big-money conferences — at the moment, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — to at least form their own division within the NCAA and could force them to break away and form their own organization. Even at the top of the food chain, schools would have to change the way they budget. Instead of building a new weight room, a school might need to hold back on capital improvements to meet payroll. Such a settlement would get messy, but it would finally stick a knife in the NCAA’s sham notion of amateurism in major college sports.
This case could have been settled long ago for relative peanuts. Instead, due to arrogance and greed, Emmert may go down as the guy who killed college amateurism. That’s not exactly the kind of legacy that gets buildings named after you (assuming schools could afford new athletic buildings if the NCAA loses). Although I imagine the plaintiffs will raise a few toasts in Emmert’s direction if they win.