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Federal Judge Rules On O'Bannon Case

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A federal judge ruled Friday on the pivotal class-action lawsuit headlined by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, letting the NCAA off the hook for billions of dollars in compensation for former athletes, but leaving open the possibility for a change in amateurism rules.

According to USA Today, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the plaintiffs will be allowed to challenge the NCAA's current restrictions on compensation for student-athletes.

The case originated with O'Bannon, who wanted compensation from the NCAA, which received licensing money for video games that used his likeness. Wilken's 24-page ruling said, to simplify a complex case, it would be impossible to properly determine the full scope of the dollar amount and number of athletes the NCAA owed.

Though the legal case thus far has been limited to a group of about 20 current and former NCAA football and basketball players, the ruling almost certainly will lead to further court decisions regarding whether the governing body of collegiate athletics must change its compensation model and share revenue with the players.

Lawyers for both sides claimed victories in released statements.

The case has some parallels to the legal battle between former NFL players and the league regarding health issues in that it involved billions of dollars and threatened the financial viability of the organization, in this case the NCAA. In that case, the former players did receive compensation, but through an out-of-court settlement.

The NFL case is more played out, but in both instances, the legal pressure appears to be a driving force in prioritizing player safety (NFL) and ensuring fair compensation (NCAA) in the future.