Monday, August 11, 2014

O'Bannon And O'Bannon

TigerBlog has no idea what the impact of the Ed O'Bannon verdict means.

Oh, he's certainly read enough about it. Here's what he doesn't get:

* does this trust of $5,000 per year applies to every Division I football and men's basketball player

* how does the other major news last week that schools from the power five conferences can now make rules that would include the full cost of attendance impact the $5,000 trusts, since they were meant to cover the difference between full athletic scholarships and full cost of attendance

* what does it mean to every other sport

* what does it mean in terms of Title IX

Mostly TigerBlog is just dizzied by the changes in college athletics. It started with conference realignment and has continued in a huge way with the two events of last week.

And yet as the hurricane rages around him, TB sits in the eye - a world of stability and calm known as the Ivy League. There's something very refreshing about that.

When TigerBlog thinks of the name "O'Bannon," he thinks not of Ed but of Charles, and the night of March 14, 1996.

The place was Indianapolis, and the building was the RCA Dome. Indianapolis is still there. The Dome isn't. It was replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium a few years ago.

In case you haven't gotten the obvious yet, TigerBlog is talking about Princeton-UCLA in the opening round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Princeton, five days after beating Penn in an Ivy playoff game on the night Pete Carril announced his retirement, defeated defending NCAA champ UCLA 43-41.

Even 18 years later, every detail of that trip to Indianapolis is still vivid to TigerBlog, from the travel to the dinners he ate to having to buy extra clothes at a mall because he didn't anticipate being there the entire weekend.

He remembers the media crush. He remembers the media room. He remembers when Vinnie DiCarlo, then an OAC intern, stole the sign that said "This is not a public entrance to the RCA Dome." He wonders if Vinnie still has that sign all these years later.

He remembers the people, the ones from Princeton who made the trip and the ones he met while there. He remembers calling around finding a place to update his game notes and how everyone he talked to was suddenly a Princeton fan.

Mostly, he remembers the end of the game itself.

Princeton trailed 7-0 at the first media timeout. At halftime it was a one-point game, 19-18.

The key moment of the game has been largely forgotten through the years, with everything else that happened at the end. No, this came with five minutes left and UCLA up 41-34, after Princeton had tied it 34-34. The Tigers then turned the ball over, and UCLA had Charles O'Bannon all alone ahead of the field.

The inevitable seemed to be a dunk, a nine-point UCLA lead, a Princeton timeout and basically the end of the ballgame. Instead, O'Bannon caught the length-of-the-court pass a hair closer to the basket than he thought he was, and he missed his layup.

Sydney Johnson then drained a long three at the other end. Instead of being down 43-34, it was 41-37. You know the rest.

Princeton tied it at 41-41. Cameron Dollar missed both ends of the two-and-the-ball after an intentional foul by Johnson. Kris Johnson left a leaner in the lane short, the rebound to Steve Goodrich.

And then, after a timeout, perhaps the single most iconic play in the entire history of Princeton Athletics, Goodrich to Gabe Lewullis for the game-winning layup. Then there was the seven-minute delay - TigerBlog was kneeling next to CBS' Andrea Joyce, who was waiting to grab Carril for TV, all while TB thought to himself how crushing this was going to be if UCLA pulled it out - for a reset of the game clock and two timeouts before Toby Bailey's airball ended it.

Princeton 43, UCLA 41.

Lost on TigerBlog in that moment was another number - 31,569. That was the attendance.

Two days later, Princeton lost to Mississippi State in the second round. The attendance that day was 32,293.

Looking back, maybe the ridiculous part is that it took this long for athletes to begin to get their share of the revenue that they are clearly helping to generate, from gaudy attendance numbers that are often more than three times the numbers Princeton drew in Indianapolis for college football to the unimaginable numbers that television brings to the table.

With that much money on the line, it's incredible that it took this long to get to the point that was, well, the point of last week's two decisions.

First, the major schools who are responsible for most of the revenue don't want to share it with the likes of Princeton and everyone else. Second, the athletes figure they're entitled to their cut.

The Ed O'Bannon lawsuit started after he saw his image used in a video game without his permission. It's about the money that individual athletes are generating themselves, with their likenesses, and how they weren't getting any of the money for them. Jerseys. Video games. Those sort of things.

TigerBlog prefers to reminisce about the night that Princeton beat UCLA, the Charles O'Bannon part of college athletics, rather than read any more about the lawsuit, the Ed O'Bannon part.

In college sports, they coexist, today more than they ever have. It's a miracle that this didn't happen decades ago, actually.

And the future?

TB isn't sure. Nobody is.

He just hopes that the Charles part doesn't get obliterated by the Ed part.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once the mechanics are set up to pay athletes any amount of cash within the new rules, the enforcement of limits on that cash will become almost impossibly difficult.

We are talking about universities and booster groups which have historically had no end to their creativity in funnelling cash or cars, electronics and other goodies to recruits and active players. Now that actual deposits into checking accounts are allowed, the spigots will be turned on full blast.

Look for a lot more high profile recruits to arrive on campus driving new sports cars.