For months – even years – people have been eagerly awaiting a decision in former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's case against the NCAA.
O'Bannon argued college players should be allowed to profit off their own likenesses, and the case has been seen as one of several that could cause the NCAA's amateur model to come crashing down.
"This is the most threatening lawsuit the NCAA has ever faced," Michael McCann, a University of New Hampshire sports law professor, told SI.com last year. "If O'Bannon prevails, it would radically change the economics of college sports."
But so far the decision, more than anything, has left people scratching their heads, except for apparently, USC's Athletic Director Pat Haden, who was a practicing attorney in the 1980's.
"The decision is not a surprise and something many of us anticipated," Haden said in a statement. "This will still play out for some time and while it does, USC will remain committed to doing as much as we possibly can for our student-athletes within the NCAA rules."
It's hard to know what exactly is not a surprise and what was anticipated, especially since USC and Haden turned down an interview request. (As did UCLA)
Though she ruled in favor of O'Bannon, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said the NCAA could cap the money it pays to athletes.
“I don’t think the O’Bannon plaintiffs won nearly as much as they or media think seems to think they do,” Gary Roberts, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Indiana University, told KPCC's Take Two.
Roberts was left scratching his head after reading through the 99-page ruling.
"It’s a very confusing, very complicated, very technical devision and I think it’s going to take awhile before we all understand it,” Roberts told Take Two. “She basically rejects the O'Bannon plaintiff's theory, and then turns around and enters an injunction that says all student athletes should be allowed get a trust fund with five-thousand dollars in it."
The NCAA says it will be appealing Wilken's ruling, but before it does it wants to know exactly what it's appealing.
"We remain confident that the NCAA has not violated the antitrust laws and intend to appeal." the NCAA said in a statement Sunday. "We will also be seeking clarity from the District Court on some details of its ruling." (There's more on what the NCAA is appealing here)
NCAA President Mark Emmert told “This Week” that the O'Bannon ruling could lead to the professionalization of college sports.
“There is a lot in the ruling that I think is admirable and it’s consistent with arguments that we’ve been making all along, and there are some things about it that we really fundamentally disagree with,” Emmert said. “Most notably we disagree that there’s a violation of antitrust laws going on here and we’ll probably continue to argue that in the coming months and beyond. But it has the potential to fundamentally shift intercollegiate athletics in ways that many people are concerned about.”
Underscoring the ambiguity of the ruling, some legal experts say they wouldn't be surprised if the NCAA and O'Bannon both appealed the case. Here's what McCann wrote on SI.com:
I expect O’Bannon’s lawyers to petition the Ninth Circuit and demand that players receive more than a “modest payment” for their NIL rights, requesting that prices be set according to the market. Other attorneys agree. Eugene Egdorf, who has represented clients who have previously sued the NCAA, told SI.com that O’Bannon “can and should appeal.”