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NCAA drops name-likeness release as O'Bannon trial reaches crescendo

Just days before a decision in the landmark trial is expected, the NCAA's quietly removed the part of their consent forms which requires students to sign away their name and likeness rights in order to be eligible.

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As we approach a week in which we could very easily see not just the judge render a verdict in the landmark Ed O'Bannon vs. NCAA trial, but also radical reform to college athletics governance as a whole, one major change has already transpired.

As first reported by USA TODAY Sports' Dan Wolken and Steve Berkowitz, the NCAA recently tacitly removed the part of the student athlete scholarship agreement that requires the athlete to sign away their name and likeness rights. A key component of the NCAA's case against O'Bannon is that that part of the release was not mandatory, despite multiple former big-time college sports leaders testifying to the opposite during the hearings.

The Big Ten independently still requires their members' student athletes to sign a release which makes it clear that the student has conceded "the right to publish, duplicate, print, broadcast or otherwise use in any manner or media, my name, photograph, likeness or other image of myself for any purpose". It remains possible the other power conferences, particularly the SEC with their new network with ESPN set to launch in a few short weeks, may well follow suit.

But at least for now, one of the more potentially critical aspects of the case against the NCAA has quietly been removed – and just days before a verdict is potentially announced no less.