The latest shot across the NCAA’s bow

The words I never thought I’d see uttered:  “Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”

The wheels have been set in motion.

For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” has learned.

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.

Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of  Northwestern players with the NLRB — the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.

On a certain level, I can’t blame them.  But the minute there’s a strike that cancels something, the college game will never be the same.

Just something else to thank Mark Emmert for.


UPDATE:  Union fever in Athens.  Catch it!


UPDATE #2:  The NCAA’s “la, la, la, can’t hear you” response is exactly what you’d expect from it.


UPDATE #3:  Perhaps it isn’t all about the money.

… what a current Wildcats football player had to say on the matter in a Tuesday Reddit comment on the story.

“This isn’t about getting paid. What it is about is protection. Many of us will have numerous injuries throughout our playing careers. A group of those players will continue to feel the effects of those injuries long after their playing days are over. The goal is to have some sort of medical protection if we need surgeries stemming from injuries sustained while playing for our university.

“Another goal is graduate school for those who were fortunate enough to play as a true freshman. Most student-athletes get redshirted in their first year, and receive one year of grad school payed for in their fifth year of eligibility. We feel as though it is fair to ask for the same investment from the university all around. It isn’t about getting an extra $200 a month for spending. We have our stipend, and if we budget correctly we are able to make it stretch for the month. Would it be nice to have some part of jersey sales or memorabilia sales? Absolutely. But that is not the goal as of right now.

“Just wanted to add in that I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I have been given to not only play football, but to attend a world class university such as Northwestern. It is an opportunity millions dream of having. We are treated well at Northwestern, but unfortunately that is not the case at many other schools. Hopefully we can create a voice for the players and clean up these issues.”

Thoughtful?  Damned ingrate.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

44 responses to “The latest shot across the NCAA’s bow

  1. durrtydogg

    I always wondered why millionaires and egotistical self indulgent blowhards such as Mark Cuban or Vince McMahon(who once had the gall and the balls to challenge the machine known as the NFL) didn’t think to tap into the most lucrative idea of a football league that is literally right under their noses. Creating a league of 18-25 year Olds that would be a bridge and a minor league of sorts for the professional franchises would allow kids to be paid, provide another outlet that could battle the plantation known as college athletics while smacking the smirk off the faces of those in charge. We all know it doesn’t take a scholarship for kids to attend school. Hell the days of attending school while placing a foot on campus is almost eradicated with the ability to learn online. You could have city franchises battle one another just like the NFL only with blue chippers. Their salary could be set according to their skill levels with league minimums and incentives. They could still take classes if they choose to by using the aforementioned online capability. I mean it would be something to see if someone stepped up and created a mini NFL. All it takes is one major high school star to sign a contract and the flood gates would open. Where would college football be then?

    • Honestly, would you watch it? I wouldn’t, at least not passionately. Attendance would likely be low, tv viewership not much better……..I don’t think it would be near the money maker you think it would be. The overhead for a football team is much higher than a baseball or basketball minor league that has far fewer players per team.

      The facilities, the quality of coaches, everything would be better at a major university than at a minor league football team. A player would have a higher chance of getting to the NFL going through college still. You’d essentially have an NFL version of the NBA’s D-League, but with much higher costs, and I promise you nobody is getting rich off the D-League.

      • mp

        The answer to any fledgling sports league is to play it in the spring. Would I watch? Hells yeah. Beats the existing post-March Madness sports options until football starts again, that’s for sure.

        • That’s what everybody said when the XFL launched. “Yeah I’ll watch it, it’s football! Any football is good football!” The first game drew something like a 10.1 overnight share. Then the novelty wore off… the end, almost nobody watched the championship game. Then they folded. It’s just not feasible. Rosters are too large, costs are too high, interest is too low.

          • Normaltown Mike

            I think the XFL business model was flawed, McMahon wanted to create a league to “rival” the NFL, but with all the tacky glitz and “drama” that the WWE can muster. Thus you end up with “He Hate Me” and changes to the actual game like the sprint to centerfield instead of kickoff.

            A better idea is to be a second tier league that relies upon the players that bounce from practice squad to practice squad, veterans that are cut for financial reasons and young players ineligible for the NFL. It would also be better to be located in geographic areas that love football but don’t have an NFL team (e.g. Birmingham)

            • mp

              XFL added the WWE b.s. to football. World League of American Football attempted to put teams in college markets, but stupidly went international, too. USFL went with the spring game strategy, until Trump pushed for them to go head to head with the NFL in the fall…and lost. There are some good ideas there, but poor execution.

              • Puffdawg

                The irony is that “pay the players” supporters claim that jersey sales, for example, stem from the name on the back, not on the front. But then none of these start up leagues with star players have made it because… wait for it, fans identify with and support (and pay for) leagues with established traditons and legacies. They identitfy more with the Chicago Bears than they do the Tampa Bay Bandits. In other words, these failed leagues have proven the name on the front means more than the name on the back.

                If star college players went on strike, you’d all be buying UGA # 18 jerseys for the one star QB out of Jesup – who said “screw the union I’m going to play football for the DAWGS” – just because he was the starting QB for UGA. And you’d be tuning in to watch your beloved Dawgs take on hated rival Auburn (who probably would find a loophole but I digress) while the superstar players would be getting zero education and fighting a court battle to get into the NFL or hoping some rich idiot would start up what would be another eventual failed semi pro league. All those players would be forgotten about, and you guys would continue to pay the greedy colleges for season tickets and drive to Athens every Saturday and set up your tailgate and talk about the good old days where players ran 3.7 40s and bench pressed 4000 pounds.

                • If they went on strike after the first week of the season, you’d have no football for the rest of the year.

                • mp

                  Boosters paid $20k to sit with Johnny Football at a dinner. Did they ante up because of the name on the front or the name on the back? Do you think they would pay 20k to sit with the long snapper even if he played for their beloved Aggies?

                  • Do you think anyone would have paid $20k to sit with JF if he was just a minor league QB somewhere? The value of the name on the front can’t be dismissed even in the case of star players.

                    • mp

                      Of course not, but I also wouldn’t begrudge JFF or anyone else of making the claim that the NCAA structure wasn’t developed at a time when a player like that could make hundreds of thousands of dollars off his likeness and name. Instead I hear that they should be happy getting an education which has a marginal cost for the school of next to nothing.

                  • I can’t reply under your last message, so had to reply here. 🙂

                    And I don’t disagree at all with what you said. But it doesn’t have much to do with my original point that I don’t see how a developmental league for football is a financially viable option. It’s been tried multiple times in different formats, and failed. That’s all I’m really getting at. I won’t disagree with anyone that the system as constructed doesn’t give a fair shake to the players. And I won’t disagree that in theory it would be great if they could just go straight into a developmental league and not have to go through the charade of being a “student”-athlete. I’m just saying nobody is gonna start that league because it doesn’t make sense financially to do so.

                    But to the original point of the post, when you look at the points outlined by the Northwestern players (none of which have to do with pay), I agree with pretty much every point. A lot of things need to change. But somebody starting a successful developmental league just isn’t gonna happen. The only organization that could successfully pull it off would be the NFL itself, they could throw their weight around to give it the exposure, tv coverage, hype, financial support, etc that no one individual trying to start a league could do. But as has been discussed many times, the NFL has absolutely zero incentive to do so.

    • Derek

      where it ought to be.

  2. 69Dawg

    Well first off the schools and the Federal government do not consider the players employees of the schools. The NLRB will rule that they have no jurisdiction in this as no employees are involved. Do you think the undergraduates that are on scholarship can unionize to improve their scholarships? How about the interns and residents at teaching hospitals, they work ungodly hours for minimal pay so that some day they can make big bucks. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Union just trying to get some pub on this one.

    • Ole Dawg

      Up until 2008 I would have agreed with you. This NLRB and this administration doesn’t seem to let the law or the courts get in the way of whatever they take a notion to do. It would not surprise me if they granted recognition to the union.

  3. Joe Schmoe

    Can certainly understand the players motivation to do something like this given how the NCAA just screws them at its leisure.

  4. HVL Dawg

    Wait till the players find out that they have to pay dues.

  5. Puffdawg

    I say let the “market” work itself out. Would you stop going if we had “replacement” players? Would you stop watching on TV? I didn’t think so. I feel pretty strongly we’d still have PLENTY of talented players jumping at the opportunity to get a free education and play for their dream college. Do you realize how many more players we are talking about? I would actually love to see this trainwreck happen. I know which side I would be on.

  6. I wish ’em the best. It was fun while it lasted.

  7. SAtowndawg

    The O Lineman should just be thankful that they aren’t “at will” employees under Richt or half of them wouldn’t have their scholarships anymore

  8. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I wonder when Emmert and Company are going to wake up to this fact: if they won’t solve the problems, outside influences will conspire to solve those problems for them.

    I love the Northwestern angle as well. Is Fitz going to declare solidarity with his players? I mean, an education that costs the non-elite athlete only $64,000 a year? A degree whose holder earns an average annual starting salary of $50,000? Phht. Worthless. Not even worth talking about, right?

    Am I also off-base in noting that most SEC schools compete in “right to work” states, while most B1G schools operate in states with laws much more favorable to union activities? All part of Slive’s Evil Master Plan?

    • Dog in Fla

      “Am I also off-base in noting that most SEC schools compete in “right to work” states, while most B1G schools operate in states with laws much more favorable to union activities?* All part of Slive’s Evil Master Plan?**”

      No. “[I]n 14 states, college athletes at public colleges could be considered employees. California’s student-employee test, for example, asks: are the services rendered related to the student’s educational objectives? College hoops is not a class. Coaches aren’t professors. So players may be called employees.

      Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Massachusetts, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Montana are the other states Fram and Frampton identified as favorable to athlete unionization. Some states limit, or prohibit, public employees from unionizing altogether. Under state law, college athletes at the University of Alabama, for example, have no constitutional or statutory right to collectively bargain.”

      [In related news, the Alabama legislature didn’t cotton much to Mexicans or foreigners in Alabama either so they passed a law taking away their rights too. Now, when the cotton balls get rotten, they can’t pick very much cotton.]

      ** No. Regressive anti-labor state legislation is not a key element of Slive’s Evil Plan but it is part of ALEC’s Evil Plan and they’re taking it nationwide to B1G Ten Country to crush the UAW

      • Nashville West

        The National Labor Relations Act doesn’t apply to state employees. If the players are employees then they are state employees at all SEC schools except Vanderbilt.

  9. A few thoughts:

    In general, I loathe unions.
    However, I like this move to at least raise awareness a little more about the unfair stipulations put on players (transfer rules, income, etc). Hardcore fans are well aware, but I don’t believe the general public is.
    But in the end, this has no chance in hell of succeeding. Purely a publicity stunt, but again I’m ok with that because of #2 above.

  10. Normaltown Mike

    What is the “value” of the “labor” put forth by a substandard program with zero market share?

    Here are names and teams of current NFL players (prepare to be dazzled).

    Brian Arnfelt Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive End
    Corbin Bryant Buffalo Bills Defensive Lineman
    Barry Cofield Washington Redskins Nose Tackle
    Marquice Cole Denver Broncos Cornerback
    Jeremy Ebert Jacksonville Jaguars Wide Receiver
    Sherrick McManis Chicago Bears Cornerback
    Nick Roach Oakland Raiders Linebacker
    Zach Strief New Orleans Saints Offensive Tackle
    Corey Wootton Chicago Bears Defensive End

    • I think you missed the point that the Northwestern players made about doing it for students across the country, not necessarily for themselves. They just have the resources available, that’s all.

      I know that Northwestern student-athletes are well treated, housed, fed and generous stipend afforded. My daughter just graduated from there with an MFA that Northwestern paid for in full, as they do for all students in that program. Are they choosy? You bet, just as football coaches are. Granted they only take 5 MFA students a year, but you can bet they take care of their athletes just as well

      • Normaltown Mike

        No, I saw his claimed point. I just don’t buy it. Just like I don’t buy it when a politician does it “for the kids”.

        My brother in law is a student athlete in a non-glamorous sport (track and field). He’s not treated, housed, fed or stipended (ha-ha) any different than other students (with the exception of laundry service for athletic wear, which means he wears training clothes as often as possible).

        If these Northwestern players are as smart as they think they are, they’d look at the number of players (like my brother in law) that contribute ZERO to the profits of “big money college athletics” and realize that ALL the student athletes get to split up the pie, not just the hoops and football players at front line schools.

  11. If it takes a players union toget heard, then by all means, unionize, associate, litigate. I’m sick of hearing players get a free education in a state university, a la UGA, where almost everyone gets a free education via the Hope Scholarship…books and semesters abroad included.

    As a transfer student who paid $32K a year for 2 years until i established residency, then a mere $16K, I know the value of this education, but I’m guessing almost all of UGA’s students get that Hope benefit judging from the student parking lots. Room and board is basically what our players are receiving that isn’t covered by Hope.

    If there is need for continuing medical attention post graduation, (and i think graduation should be a benchmark) or they need money to help support the family back home, since they can’t hold a PT job,, or whatever necessities aren’t covered, then I think players have a right to be heard.

    I am conflicted on labor unions in general, but something should be done for players that the NCAA is unwilling to address or acknowledge.

    Good on ya, Northwestern students, damn good on ya!

  12. Hogbody Spradlin

    I’d be amused if the NLRB ruled in favor of the players, just to see the NCAA squirm. But I have no idea of the full consequences.

  13. Coondawg

    Hopefully they will get the Protection they are looking for in regards to the injuries they will have to deal with long after football. Maybe they can get a great system like the V.A. and be waiting for assistance 22 years after they leave like me or the 44+ years some other Marines have been waiting.

  14. Mike

    First shot in a long war. Might spell the end of the NCAA.

  15. TennesseeDawg

    And college football continues to circle the drain. Between the NCAA and the college presidents, the game we all love will be destroyed.

  16. No One Knows You're a Dawg

    “Future medical protection” is a substantive concern.

    I wonder at what point the powers that be at UGA figure out that their Reserve Fund is in actuality a giant “SUE ME” sign.

  17. Nashville West

    Aren’t they immediately ineligible under NCAA rules for signing with a representative just like Hershel Walker was?