A judge ordered the NCAA to pay $44.4 million in attorneys' fees and another $1.5 million in costs to lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Ed O'Bannon class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA.
O'Bannon and 19 others sued the NCAA, claiming the organization violated United States antitrust laws by not allowing athletes to get a share of the revenues generated from the use of their images in broadcasts and video games.
In August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the NCAA cannot prevent athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses. NCAA rules prohibit any student-athletes from receiving money from the selling of their likenesses.
Wilken ruled that the NCAA could cap payments to players at no less than $5,000 for every year of competition. The institutions could put the money in a trust until the athlete graduates or exhausts his or her playing eligibility. This benefit could be in place by the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year.
That ruling came just a day after NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a new governance structure giving more rule-making autonomy to the five wealthiest conferences—ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC—which are often referred to as the Power Five conferences.
The NCAA appealed Wilken’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and in March a three-judge panel heard 30 minute oral arguments from both sides. No decision has been reached in the appeal.
Federal magistrate judge Nathanael Cousins made his ruling Monday night after the NCAA claimed the attorneys should receive less than $10 million in court fees and costs. He called the victory a “significant” one against a “behemoth of an institution like the NCAA” and said it could significantly change the way the association treats its student-athletes.
Cousins did deny the O'Bannon lawyers' request of almost $3.7 million for expert fees as part of costs and expenses.
Cousins said in his ruling, obtained by USA Today, that that the plaintiffs didn’t succeed in winning every claim, but the unsuccessful claims “contributed to the decisive success by laying the groundwork for the eventual trial victory.
“Perhaps a more apt allusion would have been to George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, where individuals with seemingly long odds overcome unthinkable challenges, but suffer stark losses along the path to victory,” Cousins wrote. “In Martin's world, ‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.'"
- Scooby Axson