Former NCAA Football Player Testifies in the O’Bannon Trial
On June 11, Tyrone Prothro, former wide receiver at University of Alabama, took the witness stand in a landmark anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA. Prothro is most known for his 2005 legendary play dubbed as ‘The Catch’ which unfortunately left him with horrific injuries including a broken leg which was completely destroyed three weeks later in a game against Florida. Since The Catch, Prothro underwent 10 leg surgeries that essentially ended his football career. On the other hand, Alabama received $110,000 in general scholarship fund from a Pontiac promotion because of The Catch. According to a source, however, when Prothro later asked the school for photos of The Catch to include in his book Catch & Hold, they told him it would cost $10 each. “Of course I could have purchased some pictures, but I didn’t feel I should have to pay any kind of money for my own photos,” he said.
Additionally, Prothro was asked to describe how his time at Alabama was allocated. “I definitely didn’t think of myself as a student first . . . It felt like we were an athlete first, a student second,” he said.
O’Bannon’s legal team put Prothro on stand to depict a picture of inequality in college sports scene where student-players put their futures at risk for lucrative return for their schools and the league. Also it expected that Prothro’s statement would help rebut the NCAA’s claim that the student-players’ amateur status is necessary to balance their academics and athletics.
Of course, Prothro received a full football scholarship from Alabama, and the school paid for the 10 surgeries on his leg. However, he still has $10,000 in debt from expenses the scholarship did not cover. Although the average student debt is about twice of Prothro’s, considering the monetary gains he generated for the school, it is understandable that he is bitter. He said, “[when I took out the loan], I figured that if I made it to the NFL it would be easy to pay it back.” Well, his football career is gone long ago, but his debt remains.