Minnesota RB surprised teammates joined Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA case

Minnesota Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood speaks during the Big Ten media day at the Chicago Hilton. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood speaks during the Big Ten media day at the Chicago Hilton. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon originally filed his case against the NCAA in 2009. He wanted to see college student-athletes, past and present, paid for the use of their likenesses in video games.

Since that time, the case has been blown into a national headlines-maker, causing the NCAA to sever ties with EA Sports and any of its officially-licensed video games.

However, in order to really strengthen its legal standing against the NCAA, the judge in the case asked the O’Bannon legal team to try to get current college football players to sign on, publicly. Obviously, this would be asking quite a bit of O’Bannon’s lawyers, but it would be asking far more of the players – they would be rebelling against the system that had given them a free college education while still a major part of it.

Recently, however, O’Bannon and his team made it happen, bringing six current college football players in to sign on the dotted line.

Star Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood was shocked to learn that two of those six are actually teammates of his. As one of the Gophers’ representatives at Big Ten Media Days, he explains how he found out that fifth-year seniors Moses Alipate (tight end) and Victor Keise (wide receiver) had joined the legal fray.

“I was on the Internet and their names popped up and I was like, ‘What?'” Kirkwood said Thursday at Big Ten media days. “We support them all the way with it, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the team and bring negative attention. As long as they show up to workouts every day and do their part, I think it’s alright.”

Of course, both will be expected to be a part of the team in every way. However, as an added bonus, Kirkwood was curious about one thing regarding the case:

“If y’all win, how much do we get?” he said with a laugh.

Kirkwood was then pressed on his personal thoughts regarding whether players should be paid beyond what a full scholarship is worth for services rendered.

“When I signed my letter of intent, I knew I wasn’t going to be getting paid, so it never really crossed my mind,” Kirkwood said. “I started finding out about the revenue when I got to college. It’d be nice to have a little extra money in your pocket when times get rough at the end of the month, but I know we’re not NFL players and we shouldn’t get millions of dollars in college.”

The running back rambled for 925 yards on 218 carries and six scores. All three categories led a team that won six games and made a bowl game – this after winning only six games combined through 2010 and 2011. Kirkwood understands what a winning team can do for a city and for gameday revenue streams.

However, he would not go so far as to endorse a full-blown pay-for-play scenario.

“That would be too much,” he said. “That might mess up the whole entire recruiting process. If they choose to do that, everybody should get the same amount across the country.”