News Desk: The O’Bannon Ruling And A Familiar Feeling

On Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in O’Bannon v. NCAA, the trial that captured the attention of the college sports community. In a narrow and very immediate sense, the NCAA lost. Yet, the nature of “losing” is much more clear-cut on a court where basketballs are dunked, not inside a courtroom where arguments are traded.

You don’t need to be a lawyer or a legal expert to realize that a decision itself carries one level of magnitude and meaning. The severity in a decision (or a lack thereof) often carries deeper and more lasting consequences. It seemed less and less likely that the NCAA was going to (technically) win as the trial ran its course. The big question was if the NCAA was going to get thoroughly hammered or endure a relatively modest and narrow decision that would leave the pillars of its existence very much intact.

College Sports Twitter — being a part of Twitter — has opinions that cover the full spectrum on this question, but there are enough voices (and pieces of compelling evidence) to suggest that the NCAA should consider itself fortunate tonight.

Here are a few relevant points on that matter from Marcus Hartman of Fox Sports Ohio and Kevin Trahan of SBNation:

The first thing I have to say on this story is, “Weren’t we here about 30 hours ago?”

The vote for autonomy for the power five conferences was, on one level, a seminal moment in the history of American collegiate athletics. The ruling in the O’Bannon trial is the same. Yet, as noteworthy as these events are, and for all the ways in which they do indeed carry an unmistakable “college sports will never be the same” feeling with them, it is just as reasonable to look at these events over the past 30 hours and say, “The NCAA wasn’t brought to its knees. The rich already get richer. These decisions enable the rich to continue to get richer. What’s the point?”

A lot more will be said — and heard, and read, and contested — about these matters in the coming days. Moreover, there are all sorts of court cases which will take O’Bannon and develop it in some form or fashion (in which direction is anyone’s guess). Those court outcomes will lend more definition to this interconnected set of very tangled issues.

Yet, at the end, we’re left with the familiar feeling which pervaded the room yesterday, following the autonomy vote: It’s the beginning, not the end, of a new and lengthy chapter in the history of college sports. These news events carry with them the outer look and feel of game-changers, but we just don’t yet know exactly how or to what extent the game actually will be changed.

Stay tuned… as unsexy and unappealing as that two-word piece of advice might be for those of you who want to see the NCAA vanish into the mists as quickly as Steve Spurrier feeds yet another 24-hour news cycle.

Want to read the 99-page ruling this weekend? Here you go — have at it.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |