Why unionization of college ball is a major foul

I had to sit back and ponder the regional labor relations panel decision to allow the college football players at Northwestern University to unionize. My first inclination was to analyze where this lawsuit was filed. Northwestern University is in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. And we all know that Saul Alinsky, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, David Axelrod, Rahm Emmanuel, Jesse Jackson (Sr and Jr), and a host of other progressive socialists come from that area — well, no surprise.

Last night on “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren, four pro-football athletes all agreed with the decision that college football players can unionize. One even made the slip of the tongue and referred to student-athletes as “employees.” I have to disagree with all of them.

The decision would allow players to demand things like more concussion testing, medical care after they graduate, guaranteed scholarships and even a portion of the multimillion-dollar profits that most Division I NCAA schools make off sports.

The purpose of going to college is to earn an advanced education. Those who have additional skill and talent in athletics are awarded scholarships to compensate their tuition in exchange for their abilities in the arena of chosen sport. What we are moving towards is a system of “sports mercenaries” who will become employees of the school that can pay the most. Furthermore, we are sending a horrible message that deemphasizes the honor of a quality education. What do you think will be the objective of young kids now? Go to college for an education, or just hang out to play ball and get paid?

Now, I do believe these student-athletes should receive a stipend while they are in their respective sports season. It should be focused on covering their incidental costs. Remember, they already get full room and board, and if it’s still like when I was in college, cafeterias serve pretty darn good food. The NCAA should formulate a standard stipend percentage relative to each sport and at each Division level. I can promise you that if this passes for football, then other sports will follow suit.

This idea came from outgoing Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, who is now at the NFL combine. As CNN reported, Colter testified at the hearing that he loved his experience as an athlete at Northwestern, but the picture he painted was a dim one for believers of the idea that student-athletes are students first. “We are first and foremost an athlete,” Colter testified. “Everything we do is scheduled around football. … It’s truly a job.”

However, counter to Colter’s assertion three other former Northwestern players — Doug Bartels, Patrick Ward and John Henry Pace — took the stand in defense of their alma mater, all saying they were able to succeed academically despite the demanding hours. “I think our former students were very good spokesmen for the really terrific educational opportunities they had at Northwestern,” university spokesman Alan Cubbage said. “They spoke very well on the priority in academics, not just at the university but in the football program itself.”

As well, there should be some compromise on what a kid receives for the commercial use of his or her image while they are in college. I also believe that these student-athletes should not be allowed to drop out of college and enter any professional draft unless they have achieved an Associates Degree.

“Comprehensive reform will always be elusive unless players have a seat at the table, just like the NFL, just like the NBA,” said Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association, which is representing the players. I could not disagree more with Mr. Huma’s statement. This is what will happen. If college football players are allowed to unionize, they will have to pay dues — someone has to pay for these mouthpieces. The demand for pay will mean that the new cost will be transferred to the consumer. Are the players paid by the university or the NCAA –guess what will happen to college tuition? What happens when you no longer have free tickets for the “regular schlubs” — the college student? What happens when we start to see ticket prices increase to cover the new compensation of athletes?

If players are then employees of the university, can they stay as long as they want? Who says they have to graduate and move on — after all, they are no longer “student-athletes,” they’re employees. What happens when the Coach benches a player for disciplinary reasons? Will the player then go to his union to adjudicate? Or will it be written into their collective bargaining contract that the coach cannot bench or discipline a player without union approval — don’t tell me that cannot happen — look at the teachers unions.

Unionization of college ball is one heck of a bad idea and I pray the NCAA will go on the offense before they get steamrolled — just waiting for President Obama to weigh in. The unions are looking to increase their membership, wherever they can. What do you think, are college athletes students or employees?

84 COMMENTS

  1. I agree whole heartedly, but think the stipends should be in effect for entire academic year. Its hard to get a job in off season when you have off season training, spring ball, etc…

  2. If they are employees, then tax them. Tax the scholarship, tax the room and board, tax the free food. If they are taxed, they will re-think how good it is…

      • you miss the point, If the players unionize, then they become employees, and should be taxed accordingly. Student-athletes becomes a term of the past.
        In fact then they automatically become professional players. No longer able to claim that they are students

      • OOOOH, what will that do to their parent’s tax returns when they can no longer claim their STUDENT as a dependent??

      • should have thought of that before they went union. In my honest opinion they have no business or right to join a union

      • That is not correct. But they are limited to actually having to work at the job, and the employer may not use their standing as a player in any form to promote the business.

  3. Tuition for schools is about 40 -60 thousand per year and Student-athletes get a free pass for Education for about 160 -240 thousand or more for the 4 years of schooling with athletics…. If Students want to be paid then take away their scholarships for school and pay them the money equal to their scholarship worth at a prorated rate.. Bottom line… Give the student-athletes a choice of getting paid the worth of the scholarship at a pro-rated rate throughout their time at college (which they will still have to get loans for school and repay) or give them a completely paid for education. The benefit in pay for play is that if the student-athlete becomes academically ineligible then they aren’t paid….. But there is no way they deserve a free education and getting paid at the same time…

      • But is it fair compensation?
        is it enough in all cases?
        …or should it just be part of the deal they receive?
        If a college football quarterback has a winning season and takes his team to a couple of bowl games… is the cost of tuition fair compensation for the millions the school is taking in, not just on ticket sales and money from TV networks, but also merchandise and other usages of the player’s likeness?

      • What if…the team decides to strike? Then that senior QB has no stats to take to the pros. He’s done, at the hands of his mates…

      • I tried to copy and paste it here to no avail. A friend of mine got a full ride to AL, and said he wouldn’t change a thing, and listed the reasons why. He took an Academic scholarship so they’d have an extra athletic sch.. Some of his reasons were that his experience there was worth more than any money. He was there for the love of the game. That seems to have changed now.

      • Less love of the game now as many put their two years in with a chicken sh– major, then jump to the NFL.
        They play a few years there, and after they retire, they have zero— they blew all their money and have no college degree to fall back on

  4. That system of Universities acting like minor league for the NFL and NBA is exploitation of the highest order. Coaches are paid millions, school rakes in the TV rights, ticket sales and merchandising. After housing, books and tuition there’s not much left of that scholarship and student-athletes can’t take part-time jobs. Real student athletes go to either Ivy League schools or community college and play division 2. Orlando Bloom who skied could not have sponsors for the Olympics at the risk of losing his scholarship. Not counting that you are always an injury away from losing everything. Baseball and hockey have it right with a professional farm systems.

    • Most of these athletes would never get into these schools were it not for their physical ability. They are looking a gift horse in the mouth and will rue the day they wrecked it for themselves and everyone else.

      • Many comments on this site seem to indicate that the colleges are taking advantage of the ” student athlete”
        At the same time these same athletes are taking advantage of the colleges, as they would have been rejected by the admission boards based upon their HS grades and testing scores.
        Check out what the ridiculous majors many of them have in college

    • With all due respect, you are woefully ignorant and making statements that are not factual. Student athletes may have part-time jobs, but there are limits on not using their status in the program to promote the job they are doing, and they must actually work the job for the money they receive. This is to protect the student-athlete from being taken advantage of. Secondly, my son is a student-athlete of the highest order (All-Academic team honors) and he is neither Ivy League or community college … and is playing Division 1 at a school that is highly regarded academically. I resent your implication that he is not a student-athlete. Lastly, college baseball teams and hockey teams have scholarships they award to their players.

      • I’m not implying nothing about your son I don’t know the young man. Baseball and hockey teams do have scolarships but the top drafts in both those sports come from they minor league system.

  5. The bottom line to this entire fubar is that these are STUDENTS of the college, not employees. If one group of students is entitled to unionize (which, in my opinion, is utterly absurd), then ALL the students should be entitled to unionize. It’s ridiculous.

      • That money is reinvested in new buildings, books, dorms, and yes, fields. Probably pays a great deal of the prof. salaries AND retirement, therefore keeping tuition from tripling.

    • …and then they should be taxed on what the “earn”!! Full college scholarship w room/board plus monthly comp. Adds up to a bunch of money

      • Why even bother to go to class? There was a time when student athletes were students first. All that changed with the growth of football as the most popular sport in America. To an old timer like me, sadly, that all changed, . I dioo not watch college football. And until a couple of years ago, I daresay, you could not find anyone who loved the game more than I.

        I guess the thought of hearing a bedridden player say, “Win one for the Gipper’s union”, doesn’t have a lot of appeal for me.

      • I agree why bother? But College sports are a stepping stone to the pros especially for football and basketball. It’s big business there are very few students athlete. Everyone on a division 1 team hopes to make it somewhere at least as a backup. Best coaches in college sports don’t even want to go the NFL they have it so good. Less pressure no draft, no contract negotiations everyone gets the same scholarship from the starters to the practice squad.

  6. I agree with everything Mr. West said in this piece. If college athletes unionizing is bad just wait to the Title 9 folks get involved for their “fair share”.

    • Why not make the NFL pay for these college players salaries?
      Since the colleges provide players to the NFL rather than having their own minor league teams, have the NFL foot the Bill

      • Why would any NFL team pay players in college? Why “force” a professional team to pay a kid’s tution? That’s like my company paying a college kid to attend school then after he or shes graduates, I hire them. That makes makes no financial sense. The NFL isn’t or any other professional team isn’t in the business of paying for someones education.

  7. If they have a scholarship that is paying for their education they are making big bucks money for getting an education. Look at all the student loans being piled up by the people paying their own way. It is out of control.

    • Sure but they’re getting thousands of dollars a year in tuition and other benefits while the schools are making millions of dollars from their athletic program. College athletics ceased being about education a looong time ago, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry now.

  8. College Sports has finally gotten out of hand. There was a day in time when they played because it was fun, then it became a stepping stone to the Pros. Then colleges recruited players and gave them all kinds of benefits, cars, money, etc. Now it becomes a pro career.
    Pros do not belong in Colleges or Universities. Gone is the day when kids get taught what Integrity, Honor and being Trustworthy means. i find it a shame that college sports has come to this

  9. A union power grab… Pure and simple. Unions are an anachronism… We now have wage and hour laws, OSHA for work place safety and a whole host of labor related laws that serve the purpose for which unions were created. Today’s unions are purely political animals that contribute only to the democrat party in amounts that make the evil Koch brothers look like rank amateurs.

  10. They are not thinking this through.First they get 800 to 1000 per month now, second they get education free, and last I’m assuming the education at dear old Northwestern is around 35 to 50 k now all the accounting majors can run the numbers for the IRS take at 39%. Wow 350 colleges at 90 players works out to be 32,000 players approx who are new taxpayers. Approx. 150 to 200 will make the NFL every year, but eventually the golden goose will go away with this Chi-town dunces move. Watch were you tread.

  11. If I were a university I’d tell these clowns that we are disbanding football and ending all athletic scholarships until the school had developed a business plan. This business plan will take into account that under NCAA rules the “employees” are regulated to a small number of hours per week. This being the case they will be considered part time as well as seasonal employees. There will be no perks offered. As with many jobs, “employees” will have to furnish their own work equipment. A flat per mile travel allowance will be paid, but “employees” are now responsible for their own transportation. Given that our business is now under the purview of the EEOC, hiring quotas will be instituted so you may not have your roster spot any longer. You may be replaced by an albino lesbian pygmy from Borneo or a post op transsexual weight lifter from a former Eastern Block Country. We have to have diversity after all. The athletic dorms and training tables will also be closed. You’re in the real world now son-pay for your own housing and groceries. One last thing, as an employer, we will institute production quotas and if you fail to meet them, you get your first real world lesson in life-you’re fired!

  12. Give the student athletes particular football payers fair share of profits. Billions of dollars can go further for athletes rather than adult coaches admin. etc… Why are coaches making twice to 10 times more than the school Presidents/ Leaders… I agree with the players. Shake the tree and see what falls on the players lap.

  13. So if a college ball player helps make millions for the college and the college is profiting from his likeness, using the player’s name to help sell and promote, all while the player’s success on the field are making the college richer and TV networks airing games richer,… all that’s okay.

    But if the player wants to unionize so he can be properly compensating for the money he is generating… that’s wrong.

    So it sounds like you are against capitalism.

  14. Rumors have it, Coaches will form an Assn. and are gonna create their own Super Conferences and disband the NCAA for Football & Basketball.

  15. As employees, these earnings will be taxed. Taxes are high in Chicago and the NE. Players will choose schools where taxes are lower.(FL) Football program over at NW. Hahahahaha, progressives…little taste of your own meds. Nobody will be able to afford college at all.

    • I’m not sure how you concluded that a worker wanting to be paid is a progressive notion.
      It is capitalism 101.
      Though if they are fairly compensated for the money they are generating, taxes will not hurt.
      And your suggestion that they will only play where taxes are low is absurd.
      they will play where they will get the best opportunities and field time to be paid.
      Also if, like most national unions, pay differences state to state will adjust to account for tax differences.

      • I don’t think it’s absurd for them to avoid high taxes. Why are people flooding out of NY and NJ? They will go where it makes most financial sense for them to go. Not bc they have a loyalty to a team. At this point, I want them to do this, so they get a very valuable lesson. Problem is, it ruins it for those with integrity. They aren’t pros, they are students.

      • Brendan, when I was in SCHOOL (operative word here), the WORK came from the CLASSROOM. Extra curricular activities were for fun and socialization.

  16. Gee, I thought a FREE College Education was “payment” for playing an “extra curricular” activity. Want to Unionize and get Paid, then welcome to the ADULT world and you can PAY for your own education!

    • A sports program that brings in millions of dollars is a little more than an extra curricular activity.
      If players were properly compensated for the millions they bring in, I suspect deducting some of that pay for tuition would be fine with them.

  17. Last year Northwestern’s record in football was 5 wins and 7 losses; now how much should they be paid for a losing season?

  18. Where were all of you loud mouths when most of the players were white; they were the ones who built up college sports with no compensation in college or the pros.

  19. My son plays D1 college football. They already get a stipend, in addition to tuition, books, fees, room & board, and travel per diems when they go to games. They also get per diems when they attend camps and such when school is not in session. The other thing to remember is that MOST college football programs do not make millions in profits, and the money they do bring in funds other sports that do not have TV revenue, attendance money, and sponsorships. When my son was put on scholarship, the amount that he receives is about 50% more than what we were giving him before he was put on scholarship. Will he play NFL? Hard to tell, but he is going to graduate with an excellent degree that will take him far in life. THAT’s the “compensation” he receives most of all.

    What about the players that don’t have scholarships, but are still on the team (which is usually 30+ per team)? They would not be an employee then, so they would not qualify to join the union, right? So then will they be discriminated against because the union rules will call for their members to have seniority?

    In my opinion, if players want to be paid, there are places they can go for that. Get on an American Football Association team, or some other minor league football program. But I guarantee they will have far less to live on than what they get under the current scholarship system.

    The bigger question to me is what comes next? The band gives away a lot of scholarships. Will they know have to join the Musicians Union? What about those getting scholarships in performing arts? Will they have to join the Screen Actors Guild?

    This is nothing more that the Union bosses looking to get their hands into the pockets of more people and institutions.

    • Your son is blessed to have a father or mother like you and have the sense to rely on his education and work-ethic and just his god-given talents. Respectfully you have to agree the biggest market for football outside the NFL it’s College Football, that’s where the best players go after the NFL. Sure the AFA sounds nice but does it beat playing for USC in the Rose Bowl in from 100k people when you are the top recruit out high-school? Some of these choose the school in function of the size of the stadium, they are in training for the pros. I don’t think student-athletes should unionize. NCAA should get rid of the big stadiums, sell off the TV contracts, the high-priced coaches and athletic director. Sell them to the private sector and let them take care of filling the stadiums. When the NCAA stops being the farm league for the NBA and the NFL they will have real student-athletes.

  20. Totally incorrect. Over 98% of the D1 athletes in football and basketball do not make it to the pros. It is only a stepping stone for a small number. For everyone else, it is a stepping stone to an education and a leg up in life. And if you think the college coaches are under no pressure, you do not have any knowledge of what happens in college football.

    • How about this, NCAA get rid of all the big stadiums, the tv contracts. All the logos and team names. All the high price coaches just sell it to private interest let the private sector fill the stadiums.

    • But the college coaches don’t to deal with the whining, belligerent and in many cases the criminal minds of the NFL players, as often as what NFL coaches must deal with

  21. They aren’t just students.
    Most students do not generate millions of dollars of revenue.

    Their work is generating millions of dollars.
    Asking to be fairly compensated is not greed, or socialism as the article suggests.
    it’s pure fair capitalism.

    • Don’t they?
      Don’t students that are part of a team developing new technology get financially compensated if their work generates money?

      • Not typically but I think the difference is in the ratio of students who go on to make money from their contributions. Virtually 100% of MIT students who take part in research go on to lucrative careers in engineering and the sciences. Contrast that with the percentage of football players from even the best schools who go on to the NFL. Is it even 25%?

  22. I always thought scholarships were offered to people to help them get a education!!!
    If they unionize college football, I think there will be fewer scholarships offered. Are the high school players going to try and unionize high school football? Once it starts it is a never ending story!!!

  23. The next argument will be why do football players get paid more? Shouldn’t they all get the same…..the water polo team and the football team. Should starters make more or the same? So many issues and all it will result in is the end of college athletics as we know them right now!

  24. What do you think will be the objective of young kids now? Go to college for an education, or just hang out to play ball and get paid?

    do you really think blue chip athletes dont already think like this? college basketball one year and done……Div 1 college sports are and have always been the minor leagues for all sports…..lets stop kidding ourselves about big time college athletics

  25. If I were a star athlete playing big time college football or basketball, I’d dump my scholarship and take on indoresment deals sell my image, make money, and pay off school. I would stay all four years, receive my degree, then turn pro. A union wouldn’t offer that alternative.

  26. If they are Athlete/Students – they are getting paid enough with a free education, if they seek to pursuit it. Just make College the minor leagues for the pros, make the teams for profits that the profits have to go to the school, and make them employees. Why bother dragging down what few classes they go to anyway?

  27. If they want to unionize that makes them employees. As employees they should have to pay taxes on every bit of compensation they recieve. The value of their scholarship, their housing/dorm, their stipend, team uniforms, and anything else they receive in conjunction with their scholarship.

  28. They collaborate with the union, I will not be watching CFB. I agree, taxes to be paid on every dime upon the signing- tuition-stipends- there cash filled envelopes after every game. Unionize it and you will lose it.

  29. “My first inclination was to analyze where this lawsuit was filed.”

    Translation: “My first inclination was to find some way to connect this to Barack Obama because that is the only lens through which I am able to understand any event more complicated than breakfast.”

  30. Stipends are fair because college athletes are “working” – they’re weight-lifting, running, studying gameplans – all that takes away from potential of part-time jobs while in school. So I agree with Col. West on that point. Very good article.

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