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With a federal judge deliberating about how to rule in a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA concerning the use of college athletes' names and likenesses, the association has eliminated a much-debated name-and-likeness release from the set of forms Division I athletes sign annually, USA TODAY Sports has learned.

Athletes who signed the release had granted permission for the NCAA or an associated third party, such as a school or conference, to use his or her name or picture to promote NCAA championships or other events without being compensated. The NCAA's removal of that component from what is known as the Student-Athlete Statement, which includes a series of other releases on disclosure of personal information and eligibility, is yet another indication that the NCAA is trying to distance itself from legal entanglements that have arisen as a result of growing questions about who owns college athletes' names and likenesses. NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn was not immediately available for comment.

During the lawsuit whose plaintiffs are led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon it was alleged that some athletes, including those under age 18, had been told by school officials that they were required to sign the form to be eligible to play. Some of the athletes who testified during a 15-day trial in June talked about preseason sessions in which they and their teammates were presented with sets of forms, given little time to read them and then asked to sign them which they did.

The NCAA has maintained that athletes were not required to sign the Student-Athlete Statement's name-and-likeness release portion. During the trial, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides testified that he did not view such forms as mandatory. The plaintiffs, however, submitted into evidence excerpts of 2013 depositions from Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford and then-Fresno State President John Welty in which they said they believed athletes would be ineligible to play if they did not sign the name-and-likeness release portion of the form.

The various statements relate to what U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken had raised earlier in the case as a potentially key issue whether athletes validly transfer their name-and-likeness rights to another party.

The NCAA is now trying to eliminate the problem, an e-mail obtained by USA TODAY Sports indicates.

Responding to an inquiry this week about a delay in the NCAA's release of the 2014-15 version of the Student-Athlete Statement, NCAA director of academic and membership affairs Kris Richardson wrote in an e-mail that the delay has been necessary to enable appropriate review, including legal review, of the change to this year's form. The email was sent to to Big East Conference senior associate commissioner for administration and NCAA relations Joe D'Antonio.

Usually, the NCAA Student-Athlete Statement does not have many changes from one year to the next, the e-mail says. This year, however, the 'Promotion of NCAA Championships, Events, Activities, or Programs' section has been recommended for removal from the form. ... [T]hat section, unlike the other sections of the NCAA Student-Athlete Statement, is not a mandatory component for purposes of eligibility. Because student-athletes are not required to complete that section in order to maintain eligibility, it has been recommended for removal from the NCAA Student-Athlete Statement, beginning with the 2014-15 version of the form.

The e-mail said that once the recommended change had been reviewed and approved, the statement would become available to the schools. The new form appears on the NCAA website.

Richardson's e-mail went on to say that following the release of the new version of the Student-Athlete Statement, the national office staff will continue work on a separate form and process for conferences and institutions to use to help ensure compliance with with NCAA rules concerning the use of athletes' names and likenesses for promotion of NCAA championships, events, activities or programs.

Some conferences and schools, including the Big Ten Conference schools, have been requiring athletes to sign more specific name-and-likeness release forms. The Big Ten form has stated that the athlete's signature grants to the school and conference the right to publish, duplicate, print, broadcast or otherwise use in any manner or media, my name, photograph, likeness or other image of myself for any purpose the school or conference determines is in its interest.

Such uses, the form states, include promotional and marketing materials and uses by the Big Ten Network, CBS, ABC and ESPN. ... I agree that neither I nor my heirs shall be entitled to any compensation for the use of my name, photograph, likeness or other image of myself.

Richardson's e-mail to D'Antonio also addressed such forms, saying that schools and conferences could continue to use them regardless of the change to the Student-Athlete Statement.

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