NCAA could be facing a $1 billion lawsuit

Two former college athletes are represented by two law firms that already won a case against the NCAA in front of the Supreme Court.
Posted at 8:32 PM, Apr 19, 2023

The NCAA has enjoyed great success on its playing fields; from the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to the soon-to-be expanding college football playoffs, and everything in between. But at the same time the governing body of college athletics has had little to no success in the courtrooms, and for the NCAA things could be getting worse. 

A lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon over a decade ago ultimately led to college athletes today being able to earn endorsement money through their name, image and likeness.

As impactful as that change has been, another could be on the way.

Earlier this month the two law firms who beat the NCAA in what’s known as "The Alston Case" filed another suit, which could wind up costing the NCAA $1 billion.

Former Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, now with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and former Auburn track athlete Keira McCarrell are the plaintiffs in a new suit against the NCAA and its five biggest and most profitable conferences. They are seeking retroactive education-related payments for themselves and other athletes.

Michael McCann is the director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire, and a legal writer for Sportico after 12 years at Sports Illustrated.

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McCann wrote a book with former UCLA and NBA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, whose 2015 lawsuit opened the door to athletes' name, image and likeness deals. This lawsuit forever changed the NCAA, as some players now make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in endorsements.

McCann spoke with Scripps News about the recent rulings that have shaped players' rights in the NCAA, and what they mean for college athletes going forward.

"The problem for the NCAA is once it went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court said in so many words, you, NCAA, your members, you are going to be treated like everyone else under antitrust law. You're not getting a break. You're not getting deference. That's a game changer," McCann said. "I always think if you wait for a judge to decide your business, you're probably not going to be happy with what he or she decides. So for all involved, to me, this is where we're headed for an era where college sports is probably going to be a very different creature. In the next not this year, maybe not next year, but five years or so, I think college sports is going to look very different."

What we could see one day soon is an upper level of college sports which would essentially be "professional college," and a lower level which would remain "college" college sports.  And if the NCAA doesn’t do something proactive soon, it may learn one more lesson — the hard way.