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Judge dismisses NCAA’s motion preventing players from pursuing TV revenue

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The debate over allowing student-athletes to be compensated beyond the value of their athletic scholarship took an intriguing turn on Tuesday. A federal judge in the Ed O’Bannon case dismissed a motion filed by the NCAA, along with Collegiate Licensing Company, that would prevent football and men’s basketball players from legally pursuing a cut of TV revenue from live sporting event broadcasts.

The dismissal keeps the door open for the O’Bannon lawsuit to become a class-action. O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, has led the suit since 2009 over the NCAA’s use of players’ images, names and likenesses in rebroadcasts. Recently, however, the plaintiffs amended their case to include current athletes and live TV broadcasts.

The NCAA tried (and failed) to call B.S. on that amendment.

“Now the (NCAA and its co-defendants) are facing potential liability that’s based on the billions of dollars in revenue instead of tens or hundreds of millions,” Michael Hausfeld, interim lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said via ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. “It’s a more accurate context for what the players deserve.”

A tentative date for a class certification hearing is still over a year away and the motion’s dismissal was not a decision that directly results in college athletes getting a slice of television revenue. There’s still an argument to be made over merit which the NCAA can win.

But the fight for athletes to legally pursue a cut of what has become a multi-billion business has continued life. With every new TV deal that is struck to obtain the broadcasts rights of a college football or men’s basketball game, the NCAA’s bread and butter argument of amateurism gets harder to defend.

Actually, that’s being kind; you can’t defend it. At least not from a non-legal perspective. The expectations from every aspect — players, coaches, admins and fans — are too high to consider football and men’s basketball “just a game.” I mean, it is just a game, but it’s not operated or even viewed that way.

That doesn’t mean the NCAA still isn’t doing its best to hold on to the leg of amateurism with a kung-fu grip as it struggles to walk out the door (and it’s not like you can fault ’em for trying).

“Although our motion to strike was denied, the Judge has signaled skepticism on plaintiff’s class certification motion and recognized the plaintiffs’ radical change in their theory of the case,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. “This is a step in the right direction toward allowing the NCAA to further demonstrate why this case is wrong on the law and that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that this case satisfies the criteria for class litigation.”

Whether the plaintiffs in the O’Bannon suit can make a compelling enough case to allow athletes to be compensated remains to be seen, but the opportunity hasn’t been taken away yet.

TCU’s leading rusher arrested for public intoxication

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Running back Kyle Hicks #21 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks to maneuver by linebacker Roquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 31-23. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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As the 2017 offseason kicks into high gear, so have the annual and ever-present off-field issues.

According to multiple media outlets, TCU running back Kyle Hicks was arrested over the weekend on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication.  The 22-year-old Hicks and two former Horned Frog football players, Bryson Henderson and George Baltimore, were charged after police responded to reports of a fight at a Whataburger near campus very early Saturday morning.

No further details of what led to the police being called have been released.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that “[t]he TCU athletics department said in a statement Monday night that officials are aware of the incident and looking into it.”

As a junior this past season, Hicks led TCU with 1,042 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.  He also led the team in receptions with 47, becoming the first Horned Frog player to lead the team in both rushing and receiving since Basil Mitchell in 1996.

Hicks is expected to again be the focal point of TCU’s offense in 2017.

P.J. Fleck officially turns to familiar face to be his Minnesota OC

CAMBRIDGE, MA - OCTOBER 23:  A detail of an oar during Day 2 of The 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta on October 23, 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, P.J. Fleck will have a familiar offensive face on which to lean as his oars hit the Power Five waters for the first time.

Coming off a couple of weeks worth of reports, Minnesota officially confirmed Monday that Fleck has named Kirk Ciarrocca as his new offensive coordinator.  Ciarrocca had spent the past four seasons in the same position at Western Michigan, coinciding with Fleck’s tenure at the MAC school.

The school’s release stated that Ciarrocca “was instrumental in the development of Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco during his six seasons (2002-07) at the University of Delaware,” which presumably gave him a front-row seat in the “is he or isn’t he elite” argument.

With Fleck and the Gophers, and like his boss, Ciarrocca will be embarking on his first job with a Power Five program.

A&M transfer WR Frank Iheanacho moves on to FCS level

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:  Reveille VIII rests on the sidelines as the Texas A&M Aggies play the Rice Owls at Kyle Field on September 13, 2014 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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After leaving a Power Five program, Frank Iheanacho has decided that a lower rung on the college football ladder is more his speed at this point in time.

Stephen F. Austin announced Monday that Iheanacho has been added to the football program’s roster and will continue his playing career with the Lumberjacks.  Iheanacho had opted to transfer from Texas A&M shortly after the end of the 2016 season.

As SFA plays at the FCS level, the wide receiver will be eligible to play immediately in 2017.

“We’re excited to be able to add Frank to the Lumberjack family and get him going with our football program,” Lumberjacks head coach Clint Conque said in a statement. “Frank obviously brings some big game experience, playing in an SEC program and competing against some of the nation’s best teams. He brings height and speed and will add some key depth at the wide receiver position.”

Iheanacho was a four-star 2014 signee, rated as the No. 13 receiver in the country and the No. 13 player at any position in the state of Texas. Only four players in the Aggies’ class that year, including potential No. 1 NFL overall draft pick Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen, were rated higher than Iheanacho.

In 18 games the past two seasons, Iheanacho caught eight passes for 71 yards.

Wyoming loses assistant to FCS head-coaching job

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 12:  Safety Andrew Wingard #28 of the Wyoming Cowboys tackles quarterback Kurt Palandech #14 of the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 69-66 in triple overtime.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Craig Bohl has an opening on his Wyoming coaching staff, although the reason for the attrition is certainly understandable.

Monday, Indiana State officially announced that Curt Mallory has been hired as the Sycamores head football coach. As ISU plays at the FCS level, Mallory will be eligible to coach immediately in 2017.

“We want to congratulate Curt and his wife Lori as they open a new chapter in their lives and in Curt’s coaching career as he becomes the head coach at Indiana State,” said the Cowboys head coach in a statement. “Curt’s efforts in his two years at Wyoming were greatly appreciated and had a significant impact on our program as we benefitted both from his coaching and his recruiting abilities.

“Curt is a well-experienced coach, who has a great understanding of players from the Midwest. He’ll be a great fit at Indiana State, and he will make them competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Mallory, the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, spent the past two seasons as the Cowboys’ defensive pass-game coordinator and secondary coach. A former Michigan linebacker, Mallory came to Laramie after spending four seasons in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines’ secondary coach.