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On Day 1 of the trial in the Ed O'Bannon class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, the biggest development had nothing to do with O'Bannon, even though he was the opening witness Monday.
Moments after U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken entered a packed courtroom, lawyers for the NCAA here and a lawyer for former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, participating by phone, said they had settled a case pertaining to the use of college athletes' names and likenesses in video games.
The proposed deal was worth $20 million, on top of the recently filed $40 million proposed settlement of claims against video game manufacturer Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co. Those claims stemmed from four separate lawsuits, including a part of the O'Bannon case.
"It's a neat feeling," Keller told USA TODAY Sports by phone. "It's a sense of accomplishment, this becoming the first time the NCAA is paying out for a product on the field. ... It's an exciting time. The whole goal in (these lawsuits) is to change the landscape -- to do what's fair and right. And I wish (the O'Bannon plaintiffs) the best of luck."
O'Bannon and the plaintiffs' main economics expert, Stanford professor Roger Noll, took the stand Monday.
Michael Hausfeld, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, and Glenn Pomerantz, the NCAA's lead lawyer for the trial, each got a lot of what they wanted from O'Bannon. Hausfeld helped O'Bannon paint a portrait of a college experience in which basketball activities and considerations all but overrode academic concerns.
"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," O'Bannon said in summation.
All of this was aimed at attacking the NCAA's contention that its limits on what athletes can receive help keep athletics integrated with education.
To that end, Pomerantz guided O'Bannon through a series of questions in which O'Bannon described how he benefited from being a UCLA basketball player and basically conceded it was his choice that he spent so much time on basketball.
Noll's testimony was, at times, technical and difficult for even Wilken to follow. She stopped him several times to try to elicit clearer explanations -- not an ideal outcome for the plaintiffs. But Noll got across the basic contention that, absent the NCAA's restraints, football and men's basketball players would get more from schools and/or other businesses for use of their names and likenesses in live TV and other forms of marketing.
Noll also testified that an NCAA economic expert, Daniel Rubinfeld, had written in a textbook that the NCAA is a cartel, or a group that prevents members from pursuing natural self-interest -- which, in this case, allegedly would be schools taking money they get from TV and other uses of the athletes' names and likenesses and then making competing and varying offers to players.