NCAA Antitrust Case Hits Dallas Federal Court After Conference USA Won't Turn Over Docs
Yesterday's massive drop-off at the Earle Cabell is but a pit stop. Sooner than later, more than likely, it will head back to Oakland, where, in July 2009, former UCLA basketball great Ed O'Bannon filed the shot heard 'round the sports world: the antitrust suit alleging that the NCAA steals and sells, over and over and over and over, college players' identities without their permission. On classic-game rebroadcasts. In video games. On DVD histories-of. On jerseys. Wherever, whenever and however the NCAA wants. This is the suit that was the subject of a Frontline, the suit that now includes the likes of Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson and Harry Flournoy and David Lattin, who played for Texas Western coach Don Haskins's championship team in 1966.
Those wanting a recap of this class action against the NCAA will find a short novel's worth of documents, including attorneys' emails, on the other side. They were filed yesterday in Dallas federal court after Conference USA, which is HQ'd on O'Connor Boulevard in Irving, refused to turn over to the plaintiffs a host of documents related to the case -- including all TV contracts and licensing agreements. (C-USA is not named as a plaintiff in the suit, but is considered, like all conferences, to be a "co-conspirator" in profiting off former players without giving them a single penny in return.) The plaintiffs sent their subpoena in mid-August; C-USA's attorneys -- the same one repping the Big 12 -- refused to comply, insisting the plaintiffs wanted too much. According to docs, C-USA was also worried about being the first conference to comply -- it didn't want to be seen as the "bell cow."
So back and forth the lawyers went, narrowing down the list of needs. The former athletes' attorneys thought they were going to get at least some of what they wanted by the end of October. Then, per yesterday's filing: "In a letter dated October 27, 2011, the conference abruptly reversed course by refusing to produce any documents." On November 8: "Conference USA continued to refuse to produce its responsive documents with the lone exception of a 2011-12 C-USA Membership Handbook that it attached to its e-mail."
The filing follows. As Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann noted: "The stakes of O'Bannon v. NCAA are enormous. If O'Bannon and former student-athletes prevail or receive a favorable settlement, the NCAA, along with its member conferences and schools, could be required to pay tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars in damages -- particularly since damages are trebled under federal antitrust law."
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