Oregon Tight End Joins O'Bannon Bandwagon

The NCAA is currently in the midst of a potentially landmark lawsuit from former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon that's come up from time to time around here. After seeing his likeness in a video game, O'Bannon is seeking the return of the publicity rights he signed away forever when he took an NCAA scholarship. The annoyance isn't limited to O'Bannon: a separate suit from former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller was folded in.

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Now Darren Rovell's temporary leave at CNBC has provided current Oregon junior tight end David Paulson an opportunity to join them. He's got a front-row seat to the bizarre consequences of the NCAA's mandates:

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…a college athlete can’t even use his own name to make some extra cash. One of my teammates sells cars and the one thing he isn’t allowed to do when selling the cars is to use his own name to publicize his business.

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He is not allowed to use his name to make some extra money, but if you turn on the television on a Saturday you will see ESPN promoting an upcoming game by using a players’ name and image.

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Which ESPN gets paid for and his institution gets paid for and the NCAA gets paid for but the player does not.

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It's tricky, though: allowing players to trade on their fame is a very short step away from legalizing booster payments to players. This hat is fantastic, Johnny Football. Allow me to purchase it for one thousand dollars, etc. Open that door a crack and every program that doesn't spend most of its time looking down its nose at the plebeians will be trying to jam it open as far as possible. How are you supposed to distinguish between legitimate business transactions and laundered payments for on-field services? Even if it's possible, it would require a boatload of compliance activity that schools don't want to deal with and the NCAA can't handle at a national level.

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Paulson suggests a cap on the possible earnings—though it's unclear how that would be implemented—and acknowledges the compliance difficulties inherent; even with the cap it doesn't see like the NCAA can possibly implement anything other than its current zero-tolerance nannying without massive exploitation. Programs are always trying to push the edges even when the money hose is completely illegitimate.

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Even so, it's hard to disagree with this:

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At the end of the day if it is too much to ask to let college players have their publicity rights at least give us our rights back to us when we are done playing.

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They've already got some. Witness the Terrence Cody autograph bonanza. Cody's a perfect example of a kid who the NCAA is exploiting massively: he's a planetoid defensive tackle who dropped to the end of the second round of the NFL draft, injury or weight is likely to claim his NFL career before he reaches anything approximating financial comfort—especially with seven siblings all younger than him. He was also one of the most famous players on a national championship team. 50 years from now when networks need a go-to highlight it will probably be Cody blocking Tennessee's last-gasp field goal attempt. He'll get nothing from that unless O'Bannon wins.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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