ESPN.com’s Lester Munson published an interesting article concerning three lawsuits that have the potential to transform collegiate athletics. The lawsuits include O’Bannon v. NCAA; a class action brought by former Rice football player Joseph Agnew regarding the termination of scholarships; and a class action concerning concussions.
Munson compares the NCAA’s position to that of Big Tobacco, and details some of the dilatory tactics that the NCAA uses to buy additional time:
If change is to come through litigation, it will not be quick and it will not be easy. Already in these three cases — each of which is in the early stages of the litigation process — the NCAA and its legal team have demonstrated their willingness to try to wear down the athletes and their attorneys with legalistic attacks and endless resistance to document exchanges and pre-trial depositions that are routine in most litigation.
Although the plaintiffs in these cases face a long road, Munson opines that the NCAA should consider changes as these lawsuits continue to mount:
It will take a while; but as the lawsuits multiply and progress through the courts, they may reach the point of critical mass that forces the NCAA, like Big Tobacco, to consider major changes. That might seem unlikely to some, but remember: Reform in the tobacco industry seemed unlikely in the early stages of that litigation, too.
Although Munson makes an excellent point, many sports law experts are pessimistic that the NCAA will make any changes absent a court order. In fact, at the various conferences and symposiums that I’ve attended over the last few years, that has been the refrain concerning college sports – the NCAA will only change if forced to do so by a court of law.