OAKLAND, Calif. -- We're three weeks into a trial that has the dramatic possibility of transforming the NCAA. We've chronicled how the NCAA seems to be losing the case, how the federal judge deciding the case often seems unknowledgeable about college sports, and how the star attractions might have been headline-grabbing witnesses but that they matter little to how the case will be decided.
The case is to wrap on Friday, with a decision from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken coming in August. As we slog our way to the end -- with no star witnesses left to testify -- it's a good time to revisit some of the basics and basic terms that have been part of Ed O'Bannon v. NCAA:
Amateurism: The NCAA insists that amateurism is one of its core principles. Its officials and lawyers insist its principal mission is to protect its amateur athletes. The problem for the NCAA is that the athletes might be amateurs, but collegiate athletics is not. The definition of amateurism changes as the NCAA modifies its rules.
Ellen Staurowsky, a professor at Drexel University who has studied college sports for decades, testified that there is "no coherent, consistent definition of amateurism." She described the NCAA as suffering from a "rolling commercialism." Amateurism has become more of a brand for the NCAA than its ideal. Despite numerous attempts from several witnesses, the NCAA's legal team has failed to show that amateurism is what the NCAA claims it is. The state of amateurism in the NCAA will be a major factor in Wilken's decision.
Body-bag game: This is the phrase that describes a team from a small conference playing a team from a major conference early in a season. The game is a sure loser for the little school, and there is the serious possibility of injury. It's a game like, for example, Appalachian State against Michigan. Whoops. The plaintiffs have been using these games as evidence that competitive balance is already askew in the NCAA, an argument NCAA lawyers have been making as a way of justifying the status quo. Paying players, the NCAA says, would give an advantage to big school competitively over small ones.
Cap: The monetary cap on payment to players for use of their names, images and likenesses is zero. It is difficult to see the zero cap as anything but a form of price-fixing that is a clear violation of antitrust laws. For the NCAA to win this case, it must show that the benefits of its zero cap outweigh the harm it causes. The benefits are supposed to include competitive balance and an increasing market for college sports. See also Integration.
Gold-plating: With the enormous income produced from football and men's basketball, many schools are building new stadiums and lavish athletic facilities. There is so much money that they must find ways to spend it. This term is used to describe the process of spending that money. The most dramatic photos in the trial have been of the new Alabama football facility, a stately pleasure dome that features crystal walls and deluxe player lounges that make a Four Seasons lobby look pedestrian. The term is used to counteract the notion that NCAA athletic departments don't make profits or all that much money.