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These were eminent reformers—among them the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, two former heads of the U. Olympic Committee, and several university presidents and chancellors.The Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that takes an interest in college athletics as part of its concern with civic life, had tasked them with saving college sports from runaway commercialism as embodied by the likes of Vaccaro, who, since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, had built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok.“I want to give something back.” Call it redemption, he told me. The outcome of the 1984 Regents decision validated an antitrust approach for O’Bannon, King argues, as well as for Joseph Agnew in his continuing case against the one-year scholarship rule.Lawyers for Sam Keller—a former quarterback for the University of Nebraska who is featured in video games—are pursuing a parallel “right of publicity” track based on the First Amendment.

Or buy your coach.” Vaccaro’s audience, the members of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, bristled.Hausfeld LLP has offices in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and London. He spoke softly, without pause, condensing the complex fugue of antitrust litigation into simple sentences. So they had a right that they gave up in consideration to the principle of amateurism, if there be such.” (At an April hearing in a U. District Court in California, Gregory Curtner, a representative for the NCAA, stunned O’Bannon’s lawyers by saying: “There is no document, there is no substance, that the NCAA ever takes from the student-athletes their rights of publicity or their rights of likeness.“Let’s start with the basic question,” he said, noting that the NCAA claims that student-athletes have no property rights in their own athletic accomplishments. They are at all times owned by the student-athlete.” Jon King says this is “like telling someone they have the winning lottery ticket, but by the way, it can only be cashed in on Mars.” The court denied for a second time an NCAA motion to dismiss the O’Bannon complaint.) The waiver clause is nestled among the paragraphs of the “Student-Athlete Statement” that NCAA rules require be collected yearly from every college athlete. Nobody can assert rights like that.” He said the pattern demonstrated clear abuse by the collective power of the schools and all their conferences under the NCAA umbrella—“a most effective cartel.” The faux ideal of amateurism is “the elephant in the room,” Hausfeld said, sending for a book.But what Vaccaro said in 2001 was true then, and it’s true now: corporations offer money so they can profit from the glory of college athletes, and the universities grab it.In 2010, despite the faltering economy, a single college athletic league, the football-crazed Southeastern Conference (SEC), became the first to crack the billion-dollar barrier in athletic receipts. That money comes from a combination of ticket sales, concession sales, merchandise, licensing fees, and other sources—but the great bulk of it comes from television contracts.

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The debates and commissions about reforming college sports nibble around the edges—trying to reduce corruption, to prevent the “contamination” of athletes by lucre, and to maintain at least a pretense of concern for academic integrity.

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