Judge green-lights O'Bannon suit

Ed O'Bannon's class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA will go to trial barring a settlement, a federal judge ruled Thursday in Oakland, Calif.

The decision is a major victory for O'Bannon, the former UCLA basketball player challenging the collegiate athletic association's ban on compensating athletes.

The NCAA had asked U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in December to dismiss the suit, saying it did now show the association's rules violate antitrust laws and that athletes' demand for revenue from the licensing of live broadcasts is pre-empted by the First Amendment right to televise newsworthy events.

But Wilken, after questioning both sides during a two-hour proceeding Thursday, ruled that "the whole case is not going away on summary judgment."

The trial remains scheduled to begin June 9.

"It was not a good day for the NCAA and it was a very significant day for us," Michael Hausfeld, the O'Bannon plaintiffs' lead attorney, said in a phone interview with al.com on Thursday night. "She questioned the whole concept of amateurism from automatic immunity for everything they do. She questioned whether competitive balance and the integration of athletics and academics are procompetitive justifications."

The suit originally named video-game maker Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company, but the plaintiffs and those companies reached settlements in September.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.