Day 7 of O’Bannon Trial: Lengthy Testimonies from Both Sides Continued
The O’Bannon trial continued with more witnesses from both sides appeared in Judge Claudia Wilken’s courtroom on Wednesday. The University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides and the women’s athletic director at the University of Texas Christine Plonsky were among the NCAA’s witnesses while Electronic Art’s chief legal officer Joel Linzner appeared as one of the plaintiffs’ witnesses.
Pastides, a member of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and of a committee in charge of the league’s governance reform, testified that the school’s revenue from its athletics department was over $90 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, with about $89 million in expenses. For the fiscal year, the school’s football coach Steve Spurrier received $5.5 million, including bonus and one-time payments.
While he said giving scholarships that cover the total cost of attending college is consistent with the NCAA’s perception of amateurism, anything that exceeds the cost, i.e. a share in the broadcast revenue, would be “totally inconsistent.” He continued that if the NCAA relaxes its compensation limits and allows student-athletes cash in on their name, image, and likeness (NILs),
“he would be troubled but that he could not envision his university dropping out of those levels of competition.”
One commentator found the NCAA’s choice of Plonsky as its witness “interesting.” The University of Texas, “the country’s most notorious cash cow,” generated about $165 million in revenue last year, of which $45 million is saved in reserve; its new football coach Charlie Strong was offered $5 million per year, and the school compensated Louisville $4.37 million for taking Strong. Furthermore, Plonsky had been on a NCAA presidential task force in to examine the very issue argued in the trial: the commercialization of college sports and NIL rights of student-athletes. Testifying in the trial makes her involvement in the task force subject to discovery which allowed Isaccson access to correspondences that are not all favorable to the NCAA.
Based on some of the correspondences, Isaacson’s cross-examination revealed that then-Big 12 Conference commissioner Dan Beebe was concerned with the implications that the league may be exploiting student-athletes. Isaacson also introduced another email by Elizabeth Altmaier, Iowa’s faculty athletics representative, who also served on the task force and had copied Plonsky in the email that read
“I remain committed to the idea of having some return financially to the student-athletes themselves.”
As the plaintiffs’ witness, EA Sports chief legal officer Joel Linzner were brought in to present that there is a market for student-athletes’ NILs. His testimony said that men’s basketball and college football players “have a right with regard to name, image and likeness – that there’s a market for that right, that there’s a consumer demand for that right, that game producers like EA Sports want to acquire those rights and want to put those names in their games.” The NCAA during the cross examination responded that without the schools’ support, there was no market.
NCAA president Mark Emmert is scheduled to testify today, June 19.