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O'BANNON BROTHERS

UCLA Bruins brothers Charles and Ed O'Bannon during the Bruins versus USC Trojans game at the Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California.

A landmark trial begins today in a long-simmering case involving the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA.

The anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA strikes at the heart of the organization's amateurism rules. Under the rules, former and current student athletes can't profit from colleges' commercial use of their names, images, and likenesses in, say, broadcasts of games.

"The plaintiffs would say these rules are not essential to college sports -- that they actually lead to exploitation of student athletes," says Michael McCann, Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Mark Conrad, Director of the Sports Business Specialization at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University, expects the NCAA will argue that not all schools can afford to share revenue with students. Conrad says only a few programs have major media deals to broadcast games.

"Most schools, even though they derive revenues from the system, they have to spend it, and athletic departments are very expensive to run," he says.

About the author

Annie Baxter covers education.

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