The fundamental changes facing college athletics -- from conference expansion and realignment, to the new "Power Five" autonomy, to even the vast reform going on within the NCAA's own building -- got a jet-fuel boost Friday from a federal judge who ruled against the NCAA in the O'Bannon trial.
In short, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken determined that the NCAA's rules prohibiting student-athletes from being paid for their NILs (name, image, likeness) are a violation of antitrust laws, and issued an injunction preventing the NCAA from enforcing those laws. Wilken's 99-page opinion allows for a trust fund to be established, from which student-athletes could share in licensing revenue, according to CBSSports.com. The NCAA will no doubt appeal the ruling, so the case's trip through the court system isn't quite through. But if Wilken's ruling survives appeal, it would represent a major change in the way the governing body for college sports defines athletes as amateurs.
Now, for the caveats: Wilken's ruling establishes NIL rights for FBS football or Division I basketball recruits going forward. As well, the injunction would allow for the NCAA to implement a cap on the amount of revenue an athlete can earn while still in college.
The lead plaintiff in the case is former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, who filed a lawsuit for NIL rights some five years ago.