USC athletic director Pat Haden claims he hasn't closely followed the antitrust lawsuit, filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, against the NCAA, but he does know the NCAA might lose. And he's fully aware what that means.
Haden, a former practicing attorney, made a surprising concession to SI.com's Stewart Mandel. It's not often someone associated with the defendants in a high-profile case like this start discussing the chances of losing and the fallout that might occur from it, but that's what Haden did.
"We ought to be kept abreast of it at all times, and we ought to prepare for it in case we lose," Haden told SI.com. "I haven't followed the case closely, but what I read from legal scholars, it's not a slam dunk for the NCAA."
Just in case there was any question about what Haden was saying, he repeated it:
"What I'm reading is that we have a real chance of losing," Haden said, according to Mandel's story. "It will work its way through the system, and there we go."
If Haden is going public with these worries, it's easy to assume many athletic directors around the country are quite nervous as well.
They probably should be. What started as a case for being compensated for the NCAA using athletes' likenesses in video games and DVDs has spread to the plaintiffs arguing they should receive 50 percent of the revenue generated by the NCAA and the conference television contracts.
As Haden points out in the SI story, that could change the entire face of college athletics. As he says, if for example a school has a $20 million athletic budget, it would be a game changer if the budget dropped to $10 million. That's common sense and also very true, but probably is a long time coming.
You can't state it any better than O'Bannon did to the Star-Ledger last month:
"I’m only trying to do what’s right: Athletes spent all of our summers perfecting our craft, and all season in the gym or in class with no time to work or earn a penny — it was actually against the rules to work," O'Bannon said.
"I appreciated the free education, and I’m proud to have my degree. But with the amount of money that’s brought into each institution and the imbalance in compensation, there’s just something wrong with this picture."
College athletic departments would have to reevaluate their business model if O'Bannon and his co-plaintiffs won the lawsuit. But any business wouldn't be better off if it didn't have to pay its employees a fair wage. Haden is worried about the NCAA losing this case. He, and other ADs around the country who have chased every penny during the maddening realignment debacle, might have good reason to be.