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Judge: NCAA athletes can seek share of TV money

Thanks to a new legal ruling, NCAA student athletes are one step closer to collecting a bigger share of the massive NCAA revenue pile.

Ed O'Bannon, during better times.
Ed O'Bannon, during better times.
Getty Images

You might have heard of the Ed O'Bannon NCAA lawsuit, where the former UCLA star was seking to legally challenge the NCAA's ability to license the likeness of athletes in video games, TV rights and other commercial ventures, without compensation. The NCAA had tried to limit their potential liability by asking a judge to dismiss a motion that athletes be given a percentage of revenue generated from live TV broadcasts on procedural grounds.

Judge Claudia Wilken rejected the motion, setting the stage for potentially billions of dollars in damages from the NCAA and for a potentially epic legal battle that will shape the nature of the student-athlete relationship, NCAA video games, and big time college football and basketball. Naturally after Wilken issued her ruling, both sides effectively claimed the decision as a win.

The hearing is set for June 20th, and the NCAA has been asked to make their arguments against being named in class-action lawsuit based on merits, rather than procedural motions. A jury trial, should the two sides fail to settle before then, would be scheduled for June 2014.

If athletes are entitled to a portion of revenues, we can expect wrangling over whether that money should be paid out immediately or held in a trust until graduation or eligibility expires. We'll also need to investigate the question of who decides how much the students are entitled to, and whether student athletes will need to form some kind of union, not like their professional counterparts. Now that NCAA is now facing potential liability in the range of billions, as opposed to millions, an already interesting legal battle gets a whole lot more interesting.