The players, led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, are suing to receive a cut of live broadcast revenues. To get a sense of the numbers we’re talking about, CBS and Turner are paying $10.8 billion (with a ‘b’) over the next 14 years for rights to the NCAA tournament alone (not all of that money is for live TV broadcast, but still). The players, on whom the entire plantation-style house of cards constructed by the NCAA is built, stand to at last receive some remuneration for their efforts.

There is still much legal wrangling ahead, but this stands as the most serious threat to the “amateur” status claimed by the NCAA in a long time, perhaps ever.


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Robert Weintraub is the author of The House That Ruth Built. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and Slate, and a television writer/producer based in Atlanta.