Student Athletes Form Union

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For the first time in NCAA history, football student-athletes from Northwestern University have formed their own union. According to the New York Times, a group called the College Athletes Players Association, led by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago for unionization.

“We’re not doing this for ourselves. We’re doing this for future generations,” Colter says to the Washington Post. “If the parents of children who dream of one day playing college football know their son will be protected from a serious head injury that will be what we want.”

On March 29, Peter Ohr, the regional N.L.R.B. director, ruled that Northwestern football players should be considered employees, not students and that those players had the right to organize. The reason was players devote up to 50 hours a week to team activities and that coaches control their scholarships.

“Institutional football programs have become so powerful that they are now in positions to dictate to conferences as to where they want to reside or who they desire to reside with,” says NYIT Athletic Director Clyde Doughty in a NYIT article in December of 2011. “The musical chair rendition of conference affiliation will continue to be played when big money is on the table.”

For example, according to CBS Sports, The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournamentearns approximately $800 million annually in media revenue. The current television deal for the tournament is shown through four networks: CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV with live games in its entirety. The money there pays for the rest of the Division I, II and III sports that don’t have profit ability. However, the student-athletes only receive exposure at the games, but do not receive money for their efforts during the year.

Money is where we are now and the reasoning for the unionization. It brings many positives to student-athletes which include increased value of scholarships and improved medical coverage for them. With a union, they can now accept endorsement deals and not suffer consequences. On the other hand, there’s a negative aspect which includes paying college athletes which may cause problems in the college atmosphere.

“I am not a proponent of paying student-athletes to participate, but I do believe that the rules must be greatly overhauled to reflect the change in the economic environment,” Clyde said recently. “While coaches and administrators reap the financial benefits associated with winning, the student-athletes are left to suffer restrictions. Everything has a trickle-down effect, but Division II and III do not have the financial involvement that Division I has. This is strictly about the business of college sports not about playing sports.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke with Greg Gumbel of CBS Sports on the issue: “Everybody in the higher education world sees it as critical that we maintain the college model — that these are students, not employees,” Emmert says. “If student-athletes essentially became paid employees of universities it completely blows up the whole model and it’s not clear whether anybody would want to continue the games under those circumstances.”

With no college games, fans will be outraged because of the excitement the games bring unlike professional ones. College athletes bring a lot of passion to each game because they have four years to make their dreams a reality. Athletes work very hard to receive an athletic scholarship for college because some families can’t afford it. Don’t take away the games because many athletes have earned scholarships and without it, admission for college may decrease drastically.

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