(This column was written
Whatever happened to Sam Keller?
You remember him. He came out of
In the 2005 season, he was the starting quarterback and was setting all kinds of records. In fact his September was considered, by many, one of the greatest in recent memory. During that month he passed for 1,443 yards in four games, 16 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Unfortunately, his season was cut short when he tore a ligament in his thumb.
Forced to play injured by an over-aggressive coaching staff, he was not the old Sam and was benched by Coach Dirk Koetter. Next year, in pre-season, he looked as he had before, a guy labeled with great ability and ready to lead the team. Two days before the opening game, he was named starting quarterback.
At this point, the story is that the father of
Koetter relented and the next day, the day before the start of the season, in an unconscionable move, Sam was told he would not start. Koetter expected Sam to take the demotion gracefully giving him two quality quarterbacks. Instead of Rudy transferring, Sam did and he redshirted at
As for Sam, when he finally started in his senior year for
Sam did get to play briefly in the NFL. As backup quarterback for the
Along with UCLA basketball All-American, Wooden Award recipient and NCAA Tournament MVP Ed O'Bannon, he is leading a class action lawsuit of many former athletes against the NCAA. Unlike all previous such suits involving the NCAA, the courts have agreed to hear it. Now, years after playing their final games, they feel this is their most important challenge and an opportunity to create a lasting legacy.
The athletes are attempting through federal lawsuits to get the NCAA to share its annual revenues with student-athletes. They want an equitable piece of the money that the NCAA earns from licensing players' images long after they have left college. According to O'Bannon, there are millions of dollars being made by the NCAA from this usage and the players receive nothing. They admit that they did benefit by receiving an education.
Keller cited the fact that the NCAA receives money on an on-going basis from commercials that use the player's likenesses for DVDs, and video games among other marketing money makers. Electronic Arts, Inc., for example, makes countless dollars from their video football and basketball games that are completely based on player's images.
Today, the NCAA revenues have been buoyed by the fact they recently signed a $10.8 billion TV deal for 14 years. This is augmented by the marketing of the players' images and players want part of this.
The NCAA is not budging, using the old bromide that the student-athlete is prohibited from receiving payment other than scholarships for their participation in sports. It claims that the athletes upon entering college have signed away any rights on a form, which the NCAA said they must sign, or they could not play for their school. The NCAA claims this form gives them the right to the players' images in perpetuity and prevents the athlete from marketing his own image.
There have been eight lawsuits and a federal jJudge in
As to the question where is Sam Keller? Sam, with his bachelor of arts degree, runs the bar at the Fairmont Princess Hotel in Scottsdale,
By the way, I have followed Sam since he was five years old and playing in Pop Warner... and perhaps, just perhaps, this time the scales of justice might be balanced on the side of the athlete.