The summer months are usually a pretty slow time for the NCAA and its athletes. Early June saw the last sanctioned championship — track and field — and fall sports don’t begin their play until early August. That’s a pretty big chunk of time with relatively little activity, but don’t be fooled: Every sport from football to cross country is putting in its work when school’s out. It’s not the sexiest, most high profile of periods during the NCAA calendar, but its importance cannot be overstated.
I guess that’s a pretty long-winded way of leading you to my point: The NCAA’s summer of 2014 was different. Way different. Like “we will never see another summer like 2014” different. Yeah, it was that big.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or had your life enveloped by an all-consuming internship or were traveling around the world on daddy’s dime, here’s a (very) condensed timeline:
June 9: O’Bannon v. NCAA case proceeds to trial in U.S. District Court in Oakland. This lawsuit, which claimed the NCAA had breached a section of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act, was initially filed in July 2009 — a fact that underlines the snail’s pace at which litigation like this can proceed.
June 27: Judge Claudia Wilken ’71 hears final arguments in O’Bannon v. NCAA. After her days on the Farm, Wilken, 64, went across the Bay to attend Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1975.
A brief aside about Wilken: An unabashed sports dummy, she conceded that the term “SEC” first meant the “Securities and Exchange Commission,” not “Southeastern Conference.” By the end of the trial, however, Wilken would leave no question as to who was the real expert on the law applying to theO’Bannon v. NCAA case.
July 9-10: Plaintiffs (O’Bannon group) and defendant (NCAA) file post-trial briefs to Wilken. This is simply an opportunity for both sides to reiterate their positions on the facts and law and a final attempt to convince the judge to adopt their interpretations.
August 7: The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approves a new governance system whereby the “Power Five” conferences (Pac-12, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC) now have more autonomy and ability to change rules regarding, among other things, athlete welfare. This sounds big, and it is, but the Power Five haven’t yet voted on any new benefits for athletes.
August 8: In a 99-page ruling, Judge Wilken finds — surprise, surprise — in favor the Plaintiffs (O’Bannon group) and against the NCAA. I’ll be analyzing this incredibly intricate, interesting and question-raising document in later columns.
August 10: NCAA president Mark Emmert — a slave to the decades-old “student-athlete” farce — announces his governing body will appeal Judge Wilken’s decision. This could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but not for a long while. Early estimates peg the window for oral arguments at late 2015, even early 2016. That’s a long time to wait for athletes, administrators and advocates who want clarity on how the ruling impacts current NCAA bylaws and statutes.
August 21: The NCAA officially files its appeal to the O’Bannon v. NCAA verdict in the ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. No surprise here, either. When a judge basically dismantles your pretty little “amateurism” model, what other choice do you really have?
Emmert’s organization has, at least historically, been very successful in the appeals circuit, winning over 70 percent of its cases on appeal. However, given the ninth circuit is typically pro-labor — in this instance, the athletes — and the NCAA might have tougher road to get Wilken’s ruling overturned.
I’ve read Judge Wilken’s ruling. All 99 pages of it. If you’ve got some spare time in the waning hours of your all-but-lost summer, I’d encourage you read at least part of it. Sure, it gets dry in some places, but this is the future of collegiate athletics we’re talking about here. This is the O.J. trial of the NCAA — the case of the century.
And that’s why I’ll be dedicating my next string of columns to analyzing the ruling section by section, page by page — paragraph by paragraph, if I have to. I’ll do my best to explain what the verdict means and how it will impact collegiate athletics moving forward. I hope you enjoy.
Cameron Miller hopes to expedite the O’Bannon v. NCAA verdict so that he can experience the benefits given to the athletes before he graduates. To give Cameron recommendations on what food he should demand from Stanford after the verdict is released, contact him at [email protected].