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Players 2, NCAA 0

The lawsuit to compensate college athletes for their names and images gains momentum

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon's class action lawsuit against the NCAA continues to set the table for radical changes to college sports. O'Bannon, who contends that former players should be compensated for the NCAA's use of their likeness and name, recently scored two pretrial victories.

First, a judge ordered ESPN, which is not a defendant, to hand over its television and licensing contracts for D-I men's basketball and football. ESPN unsuccessfully argued that these contracts are confidential and that O'Bannon's document requests are "ridiculously expansive and irrelevant." Armed with specific information as to how much the NCAA earns from its relationship with ESPN, O'Bannon can more effectively calculate the billions of dollars he and other plaintiffs purportedly should have earned.

Second, potentially damaging e-mails involving two other defendants—Collegiate Licensing Company (the NCAA's licensing partner) and Electronic Arts—have emerged. These e-mails portray CLC officials as worried about the legal impact of Electronic Arts's developing video-game characters using real college players' names and then removing those names before retail.

O'Bannon also filed papers seeking permission to include current D-I men's basketball and football players as plaintiffs. O'Bannon wants licensing and broadcast monies that are attributable to players to be put into trusts for them to draw on after they finish college.

O'Bannon is still a long way from winning the case. The NCAA will argue that it has neither licensed student-athlete likenesses nor interfered with former players profiting from their collegiate likenesses. A trial is at least a year away.



CUT US in Attorneys for O'Bannon, who led UCLA to the 1995 national title, have gained access to information the suit's opponents wanted kept secret.