You’ve read about O’Bannon. You know about the NLRB ruling. Now meet Jeffrey Kessler, whose antitrust suit may be the biggest threat of all to college football as we know it.
Kessler is essentially asking the courts to decide that players are employees whose compensation is being illegally constrained (to the amount of an athletic scholarship), and to lift those restrictions to open the market. Under such a scenario, the “total competitive landscape will change,” he says. “Maybe Ohio State will say, we’re going to pay X amount a year, which we’ll put in trust for when they leave school. The more years they stay, the more they’ll get. Another school might not offer more than the scholarship.
“That’s what happens in a market. It doesn’t force the schools to do anything except what they decide.”
And even here, again, comes an invitation to stop the bleeding:
Kessler acknowledges the possibility that a settlement could occur that “puts some system in place” to provide meaningful compensation for all future football and men’s basketball players.
What exactly that would look like is unclear, but he hinted that the sorts of changes that some people within the NCAA are talking about now — in which the wealthier sports programs might offer provide scholarships valued up to the full cost of attendance, or give some sort of small stipend — would not cut it.
While another lawyer without Kessler’s resources and resume might be willing to get a nice payday for his clients, “if I get my class certified, there won’t be any settlement without real change in the system,” he says.
I doubt anyone’s listening now, but it will be worth watching to see if attitudes change should O’Bannon not go in the NCAA’s favor. My bet is it’ll take Congress not riding to the NCAA’s rescue to shake things up.