Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Julia Brighton


This note explores the potential impact of litigation pending against the National Collegiate Athletic Association ("NCAA"), the national governing body that.oversees college sports. The NCAA and its licensing partners make enormous profits from the sale of collegiate-branded merchandise. College athletes, on the other hand, are prevented from making money from commercial use of their names and likenesses by the NCAA's strict rules regarding amateurism. Former collegiate stars Ed O'Bannon and Sam Keller have accused the NCAA of profiting beyond the bounds of fairness by securing for itself and its member universities the exclusive right to all of the proceeds from sales and licensing of college sports products. This note outlines the history of the NCAA, its amateurism guidelines, and the right to publicity. It looks to past litigation in this area for possible clues about the direction O'Bannon and Keller's case might take. Finally, it addresses the reasons why previous solutions based on unionizing college sports are untenable, and proposes a new model based on that of the United States Olympic Committee, which preserves the structure of amateurism but allows college athletes to share in profits.