The Blind Side, Ed O'Bannon and Big Time College Sports

[Posted By Dwayne Betts]

"I leave you missing like the f------ O'Bannons" - Lil Wayne

Seems like lil Wayne was wrong and Ed O'Bannon has always been here, at least according to Ed O'Bannon, who sued the NAACP in 2009 over the use of his image, and the images of other student athletes. Here's the quote from the suit:

"While the NCAA, its member conferences and schools, and its for-profit business partners reap millions of dollars from revenue streams ..., former student athletes whose likenesses are utilized to generate those profit centers receive no compensation whatsoever," the suit claims (article here). In a bunch of ways The Blind Side has nothing to do with O'Bannon's suit. Yet, it does in at least one real way. Michael Lewis showed how the NCAA investigated the Tuohy family and Michael Oher because as she said, "there were these rules forbidding people affiliated with college football programs doing any favors for big-time high school football players, etc."

According to Lewis, around that time, the going black market rate for a Memphis high school superstar was around 150,000. Truth is, Lewis's stance on the who profits from student athletes and if athletes should be paid runs like Bo Jackson in his hey day through these pages (of The Blind Side), but when he says "the expropriation of the market value of pre-professional football players was something very like a core business" (for NCAA schools) it's hard not to believe him and you get the sense that O'Bannon has been listening to him, or someone like him.

Okay, lil Wayne is right. When is the last you heard of O'Bannon? Maybe you've seen him on those clips of Tyus Edney knocking Missouri out of the tourney in '95. Still, if you figure O'Bannon is bringing in a class action suit, and you start asking yourself how many times you've seen Flutie's hail mary or you think about those EA Sports games, the lawsuit begins to have teeth. Or better yet, listen to what Jon King, a lawyer for the players said after a District Court through out the NCAA's motion to dismiss.

"The key to this order is that it opens the door to the discovery process, and we soon can begin collecting evidence from the NCAA, taking depositions, and uncovering everything that it wanted to hide and keep from the public's and athletes' view." (From a USA Today article here.)

But I go back to The Blind Side, Michael Oher basically hustled his way into college, and without the great fortune of having boosters as adoptive parents, he wouldn't have had people around him with the wherewithal to get him classified as learning disabled (which allowed him to take the ACT multiple times) and he definitely wouldn't have known about those Character correspondence courses he took from BYU. The NCAA is so tough on recruiting violations is because they are so rampant.

Think about what Derrick Rose did for Memphis. Or better yet what he did for Coach Calipari. I would start a list of the coaches and universities that we know fudged the rules, the programs we know that have been declared in the wrong - but it would be senseless, each year there is a new violator. Yet, we know too that those violations lead to big time dollars for schools. A national championship football team might gross around 61 million. And knowing this, it becomes hard to blame any kid for working a system that exploits him, profits from him, and often does so without really intending on educating him. And now I'm rooting for O'Bannon.