The O’Bannon lawsuit now moving towards possible Supreme Court hearing

Posted March 15th, 2016 at 2:00 pm


An appeals ruling last September in the Ed O’Bannon vs NCAA class action lawsuit complicated the potential return of college sports video games. District judge Claudia Wilken had initially ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the NCAA violated antitrust laws and that college athletes should be able to receive up to $5,000 a year in deferred payments.

The District Court ruling had made it possible for the likes of EA Sports to pay into a trust that would have been dispersed to players after they left school. They would have been able to license the use of their likenesses including names for video games. That would no longer be allowed based on the 9th Circuit’s reversal. Players would not be able to receive any compensation above the full cost of attendance.

Today the plaintiffs petitioned for the matter to be heard by the Supreme Court. Whether they hear the case or not a decision will effectively be made by them. If they pass on it then the ruling from the lower court stands. If they take it, they can reverse the decision barring compensation above the cost of attendance or choose to affirm it. A split decision, given that the court for now only has eight justices, would cause the lower court ruling to stand.

This will be important to watch, as there is little chance of a college football or basketball game returning until players can actually be paid for their likenesses. Until then implementation within another product like was seen with NBA 2K16 could be the best option available. That concept adds value to an existing already popular product rather than counting on an unlikely scenario of enough consumers paying money for a generic game, with fake teams, players, conferences, and bowls, to justify the development costs and become profitable.

For more on this news check out the article written today over at Sporting News. For a full summary of the situation with college sports video games – from the first lawsuit filing to where we are today – make sure to read through this piece over on Hit The Pass.

  • connor

    If somehow the NCAA allows the players to be compensated and the case gets resolved, what needs to happen for college games to get back on the market? It will be at least 3 years since the last football game and more for basketball so does EA just pick up where they left off or will it be fair game for anyone to start over?

    • Well, EA is probably the only publisher who’ll be interested in doing so. Odds are 2K wouldn’t make a standalone college basketball product, but they might beef up the presence of college basketball within NBA 2K instead.

      It’ll be a lot of work for EA to bring back football, considering the last game was on the last generation of consoles. But they have the advantage of being able to work off the Madden engine and they already have a lot of assets built and in place that they can carry over. It’s still a massive project, one that would probably take a couple years to launch, but they’d be in much better position to do so than another company starting from scratch.

    • Keith.

      EA agreed as part of the Madden Monopoly lawsuit that they wouldn’t have an exclusive NCAA license for a number of years (2019, if my memory serves), so it’ll definitely be open to whoever wants in.

      • NCAA probably won’t be selling a license to their branding for video games regardless.

  • Dreneel

    This is the worst shit ever…

  • cubs223425

    I can’t say I care too much about this myself. I just don’t like college sports. Too much of it is ruined by the glut of teams in the top league. Watching games decided by 40 all the time is no fun. The non-conference games are just awful most of the time, and even some of the in-conference ones suck as well. It’s just not a pleasant experience, and it’s why I basically don’t watch any collegiate stuff until the end of their postseasons.

    I’d much rather see minor leaguers in baseball addressed. That’s the sports game barrier to me, not being able to have prospects before they reach the majors. That said, I hope this works out so fans of the games can get them back. I continue to be baffled as to how it can be deemed illegal/immoral for collegiate athletes to profit off their skills and fame while everyone else gets to make millions.