Former UCLA Star Pushes Compensation For College Basketball Players

Rick Gregg
March 12, 2018 - 5:30 pm
Ed O'Bannon

Ed O'Bannon (courtesy: Ed O'Bannon/Facebook)

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — It all started with a friend’s son, and a video game.

“His kid was playing with our championship team,” said 1995 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Ed O’Bannon. “The ‘95 team. And initially, I was pretty fired up to see it. I hadn’t seen that yet. And when I saw it, it was flattering, to see my face, and my brother, and everybody on the screen. 

“And then he says ‘Hey, we paid 50 bucks, and you didn’t get anything.’ That, for me, is when the wheels started turning.”

That mid-2000s encounter led O’Bannon to front an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, claiming the organization owed players money for the use of their likeness. In a new book co-written with Michael McCann, "Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA," O’Bannon lays out his thoughts on a path forward.

“There is definitely a way. I think the will will come from the recipients. I think the athletes, if they want it bad enough and they feel like they deserve it and are up to the challenge, I think they can challenge the NCAA. The NCAA is not going to just wake up one morning and say ‘Hey, you know what? These guys actually deserve to get paid. Let’s write them checks.’ 

O’Bannon points out other areas where student-athletes stand to gain by working together, something he characterizes as “12 Calls to Action.”

The former athlete still loves the game and will be watching as his UCLA Bruins meet St. Bonaventure in the play-in round on Tuesday.  

But he says college basketball, and college athletics, aren’t perfect.

“Change,” he said, “needs to come.”