The NCAA Had a Chance to Tell Its Story, and It Chose The Wrong People to Tell It

By DJ Byrnes on June 27, 2014 at 11:46a

Today is the last day of testimony the Ed O'Bannon trial, and it won't surprise anyone whose been paying attention these last few years to learn the NCAA has botched the entire proceeding.

But don't take my anti-NCAA zealot word for it, here's Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:

Mind you, unlike many anti-NCAA zealots out there either following or covering this case, I did not make up my mind before the trial began. I came to the courthouse fully open-minded to the prospect of either side winning me over. But I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed -- and, quite frankly, stupefied -- by the NCAA’s characteristically tone-deaf defense strategy.

While I had preexisting reservations about the use of football and men’s basketball players’ names, images and likenesses without proper compensation, the NCAA still could have convinced me of the necessity of preserving its traditional amateurism model. I don’t view student-athletes as exploited laborers toiling at the whim of deep-pocketed, power-hungry overlords. Having spent considerable time on various campuses interviewing coaches, players and administrators, I generally hold positive feelings about the people who devote their lives to college athletics. Sure, some coaches and athletic directors are getting rich. But for most parties -- compliance officers, strength and conditioning coaches, video coordinators and more -- theirs is a labor of love.

Yet over three weeks of testimony, the NCAA’s 14 handpicked witnesses to date have mostly pontificated the type of elitist, ivory-tower rhetoric that routinely infuriates its critics. It has offered little convincing evidence that compensating athletes through group licensing fees would irreparably harm college athletics. And that’s coming from someone like me, who passionately enjoys college football and basketball. I can’t imagine the organization has fared better with U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, for whom the sports world is so spectacularly foreign that she had to ask one witness to spell out ESPY.

It's a good thing for the NCAA this isn't their final stand, and will be able to tie this thing up in court for a while longer.

Still, the NCAA had years to prepare for this case. If this is the best they could do, well, it shouldn't sit well with their supporters.

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