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.


Comments Show All Comments

AndyVance's picture

The fact that no one has commented on this piece for two hours tells us everything we need to know about how the average fan feels about this case, apparently... DJ, I'm glad you're watching it for us. Seriously.

+3 HS
FitzBuck's picture

Andy, DJ said it all.  I couldn't think of anything to add because every update on this trial has been so one sided.  I think we all have concluded the NCAA botched this.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

SaltyD0gg's picture

Who exactly is surprised? Tone deaf is the nicest possible thing you could say about the incompetent and incoherent NCAA.

And really, with all the money he's making couldn't Emmert afford a better haircut?

Pain of Discipline

Pain of Regret

Take Your Pick

+4 HS
BucksfanXC's picture

I'm not sure there is a legal argument for them to craft. The nicest thing I can say is, they are doing their best. There is just no legal ground to keep all the money away from the people who are earning it.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Wait, you're quoting a Stewart Mandel piece where he claims to have been open minded regarding the NCAA?

How can you possibly take that seriously?

+1 HS
setman's picture

DJ, for the most part, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum on this case from you.  I do agree however that the NCAA has botched this case in an unbelievable fashion.  They should have run out as many non revenue sport athletes as they could as witnesses.  50 percent of them should have been female athletes.  All speaking about how they got their chance at a college degree because they of the current system.  Then run out a selection of college and basketball players that never went on to pro careers.

Then finish it up with calling the plaintiff Ed O'Bannon to the stand.  And follow this general line of questioning.

1)  When you left high school there was no one and done rule.  You chose to go to college.  Was that to build your brand for NBA scouts?  

2) What did the scholarship agreement that you signed at the time state about monetary rights and profits?  If you felt the agreement you signed was so unfair, why did you sign it in that first year, when you could have gone straight to pro basketball?  Or for each year following, through your senior year? 

3)  You were eventually drafted 9th in the first round by the Nets.  In the year you left high school, out of the top nine picks, seven were college seniors, one a college junior, and one a college sophomore.  Would you say that attending UCLA helped you maximize your value for the draft?

4) Before you even played a game for UCLA, you wound up tearing your ACL in a pickup game.    You were told you might never walk again.  And your recovery took eighteen months.  UCLA wound up keeping you on scholarship.  Do you think you would have wound up being drafted 9th by the NBA or signed a 3.9 million dollar contract if you had not been allowed to continue as a member of the UCLA basketball team?  

5) Despite your playing career being finished at UCLA, you returned to get your degree in history there in 2011.  So in fact you did receive an academic education there as well as preparing you for a professional athletic career.  Was there anything else promised you in the scholarship agreement that you were not provided?  


I would also maybe put in a few questions in there that point out that your career in the NBA was rather dissapointing.  Emphasize that the name recognition he received from playing at UCLA was far in excess of what he could have achieved on his own, whether at that tme or later on as proven in the NBA.  

All along, I thought Ed O'Bannon was not a great choice to be the top name with this lawsuit.  He was drafted in the top ten.  He wasn't restricted by the one and done, and therefore had choices.  He did receive his degree.  The NCAA isn't responsible for his NBA career not working out.  

+4 HS
MarkC's picture

You, sir, deserve more than one up vote for this dissertation. 

The problem with the NCAA is not exploitation of student-athletes receiving a free education. It is not the amateur model. The problem with the NCAA is buffoon president Mark Emmert botching everything he has touched and then claiming victory in the media while the whole world face palms, chuckles, and shakes it's collective head at his incompetence.