Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon testified Monday in the first day of the class-action trial against the NCAA by former players over the use of their likenesses that he filled the role of athlete much more than student during his time at UCLA.
“I was there to play basketball,” O'Bannon said in the courtroom (via SI.com). “Schoolwork wasn’t much of a priority for me," while adding he spent 40-45 hours a week on basketball and only 12 hours a week on schoolwork.
''I was an athlete masquerading as a student,'' O'Bannon also said. (via the AP.) ''I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play.''
The number of hours college athletes spend focusing on sports was a central issue to the National Labor Relations Board regional office's ruling in favor of Northwestern players to be able to form a union.
Much of the NCAA's focus in maintaining the status quo for college athletes (and especially the bowl system) has been under the guise of academics. O'Bannon said that while playing in the NCAA Tournament one season, he was forced to take finals while on the road in a hotel room.
O'Bannon spent five years at UCLA and said he was guided into classes that fit his basketball schedule. When he left school, he was seven classes short of his degree. Last week, former North Carolina basketball player Rashad McCants said he was told to take shell classes at North Carolina and made straight A's in the midst of the academic fraud scandal that enveloped the university.
During cross-examination, O'Bannon did say that he enjoyed and received benefits from playing basketball at UCLA, most notably a free education (that wasn't completed.) He also acknowledged that one of the benefits was visiting the White House after UCLA won the 1995 national championship, however that's a perk only enjoyed by a select few championship-winning teams.
It was also noted by the NCAA that O'Bannon said in 2011 that he didn't feel college athletes should be compensated while in school, a position he obviously doesn't hold today.
After O'Bannon testified, Stanford's Roger Noll, an economics and antitrust expert, took the stand. Noll said that 75 percent of schools that had a quarterback on the Davey O'Brien preseason watch list sold a jersey with his number on it last season. That includes Texas A&M, which sold the No. 2 that Johnny Manziel wore in his two-year A&M career. However, A&M recently made the decision, along with Northwestern and Arizona, to sell jerseys without current player numbers for the 2014 season.
Earlier Monday, the NCAA announced a $20 million settlement with former players in a lawsuit involving the image use of players in EA Sports' football and basketball games.
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