What we learned from Day 1 of O'Bannon vs. NCAA trial


After several years (and countless billable hours), the Ed O'Bannon v. NCAA trial finally had its day in court as the case began in an Oakland, Calif., Federal Courthouse on Monday. The case has the potential to significantly change college athletics and could be among the more interesting sports-law cases in some time.

Here's a summary of what we learned on Day 1 to get you up to speed.

What the case is about

In short, money. Former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon is the lead plaintiff of former and current football and men's basketball players who want to end several NCAA rules related to amateurism and be paid for the use of their names, likenesses or images from TV broadcasts, highlights, video games and more. After a lot of legal wrangling, the suit is focused on whether or not the NCAA illegally restricts athletes from being paid for use of their names, images or likenesses (be prepared to hear that phrase a lot).

For the NCAA, it's simple. This case cuts to the core beliefs of the so-called collegiate model of amateurism and has the potential to result in member schools being forced to pay millions to current and former athletes. This is the first major case on a number of fronts for the NCAA, but figures to be one of the more costly ones if it loses.

How to follow along

The case could last as long as three weeks before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken begins to make her decision. It will run every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PT. CFB 24/7 will provide daily recaps of the most notable news. SI.com's Stuart Mandel, CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon and USA Today's Steve Berkowitz are a few good Twitter follows for live play-by-play from Oakland.

The Electronic Arts/NCAA settlement

The most notable bit of Day 1 news broke right as things kicked off in court Monday morning when the NCAA announced a $20 million settlement with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was brought by former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller. The case stemmed from the use of athletes' likenesses and images in EA Sports video games. You can find all the details about this case here. Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann noted that the biggest development that should result from the settlement is that it likely limits some evidence from going from EA Sports or CLC (which handles colleges' licensing and also settled) to O'Bannon's lawyers to use in their case.

O'Bannon testifies

While things started out with a bang with the aforementioned settlement, the star of the show was undoubtedly the name associated with the case in O'Bannon. He was the first on the witness stand and spent a good chunk of the morning being questioned by attorneys. O'Bannon discussed at length his career at UCLA, why he chose the school and what his life was like as a member of the Bruins' hoops team. There was particular attention paid to how much time he spent on academics, basketball and other activities. He also mentioned the genesis of the case, recalling seeing his likeness in a video game back in 2008 and wondering why he was never compensated.

O'Bannon said he enjoyed his time at UCLA and that he received perks due to his time in Westwood during cross-examination by the NCAA's counsel, which also brought up some inconsistent statements that O'Bannon made during his 2011 deposition talking about current student-athletes getting paid.

In many respects, O'Bannon's testimony will only be an ancillary part of the trial. Though he's the biggest name on the docket, other witnesses are likely to provide more key testimony related to the legal issues at the heart of the case. Still, spending nearly three hours on the stand in the biggest college-sports case in decades is notable.

Stanford economist Dr. Roger Noll

The other person called to testify Monday was Noll, an expert witness for the plaintiffs. He made the case in his testimony that the NCAA is operating as a monopoly and cartel when it comes to the economics of major college football and basketball. Among his key points is that there is no alternative for athletes that want both an education and an opportunity to play at a high level athletically. He also argued that the NCAA unfairly restricts many aspects related to players' market value, namely the ability to profit from their name, likeness or image -- a charge that is at the heart of the case. Much of the questioning is a bit of inside baseball for many folks, but it served the plaintiffs to provide the judge a picture of how student-athletes are harmed by the NCAA.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the day was when the plaintiffs' attorney, Michael Hausfeld, noted that the NCAA's own expert economist, Daniel Rubinfeld, called the NCAA a cartel in a textbook Rubinfeld wrote.

Noll will continue his testimony on Tuesday morning. He is likely to be a bigger factor in the case as an expert witness than O'Bannon due to his expertise and economics background. While it's too early to tell if he's convincing enough for the plaintiffs to sway Judge Wilken, he did make several key points on Monday.

*Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter **@BryanDFischer.*

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