“We’re still going to have to abide by NCAA rules.”

I’m guessing that most of the focus on yesterday’s NLRB hearing on letting Northwestern football players unionize will be on David Berri’s economic testimony.  However, the real meat of what was presented is something different.

But what can CAPA achieve while still playing by the NCAA’s rules? Colter brought up increased medical coverage and academic support on Tuesday, and both of those objectives are reasonable under the NCAA’s current bylaws. According to John Infante, who covers NCAA rules and compliance for The Bylaw Blog, medical care is “pretty much completely deregulated” by the NCAA.

“A lot of talk is about injuries sustained during practice and competition that the school’s not covering,” Infante said. “What the NCAA now allows is for not only any medical expenses, but also actual health insurance; they can provide that. I don’t think the NCAA would have a problem with (universities) providing healthcare to players after they graduate.”

Well, it shouldn’t, anyway.  The reality is that it ain’t happening now.  At least not in any meaningful, consistent way.

Right now, according to Infante, “schools can provide pretty much any medical expense” to athletes. CAPA wants to use collective bargaining to make sure schools are obligated to provide good coverage, not just allowed to do it.

In short: a union can make it a promise, not an option.

Although the NCAA does enforce strict rules on compensation, it has deregulated its medical coverage and academic support rules so that they are very open-ended. That lack of direct oversight over athletes at particular schools makes a case against the NCAA, and proving that the NCAA is a joint employer, difficult.

But here’s where it gets interesting.  If the Northwestern players attempt to unionize is certified, the camel’s nose may get under the tent and force the NCAA into action.

… If Northwestern’s players earn better medical benefits through collective bargaining, that could be an advantage to use in recruiting over a school that does has not provided those benefits. Such an arrangement could cause a competitive imbalance, which could result in changes to the NCAA rulebook.

“As it establishes in different places, if players are going to be collectively bargaining for things the NCAA doesn’t allow or things the NCAA does allow but doesn’t require, but does affect competitive balance,” Infante said, “then what I think you’ll see is the NCAA adopt those rules nationally to maintain a somewhat stable playing field.”

I don’t see how anybody can find that an objectionable result, particularly an organization that routinely bleats about how it’s all about the student-athlete.

Let’s just say that if you’re really concerned about the health and welfare of your student-athletes, unionization looks a helluva lot more like a realistic solution than the fumbling around we’re witnessing with the proposed player substitution rule debacle.



Filed under The NCAA

9 responses to ““We’re still going to have to abide by NCAA rules.”

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    “And though Colter said the university initially refused to pay for him to get an MRI on his ankle, they offered to reimburse him once major damage was found.”

    If a players’ union would effectively stop something like this from happening, I now understand the Northwestern situation. How many college football players could afford an MRI?

    If the NCAA does not view medical insurance coverage as an extra benefit, how can any university field a football team without covering the players?

    It is terrible the sports news media spends hours and countless dollars counting stars when I suspect none of us really know what kind of medical coverage the players have.

    Seems to me this is a real issue that needs attention.

    Please, someone tell me Aaron Murray did not have to pay for an MRI and be reimbursed.


    • 69Dawg

      Why sir the cost to the reserve fund would be too much for McFugal to stand.. I’m still mad at UGA for the way they screwed the player (can’t remember his name) over the Pro career policy years back. It also should be a cautionary story that Ole Piss had to take up a collection to help Chucky Mullins.


      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Yeah, now that you mention it, I do remember that about Chucky Mullins.

        I had medical insurance when I played high school football back before the Democrats invented the internet, surely…surely Georgia players have health insurance.


      • Sh3rl0ck

        That was Decory Bryant. They should have paid him the $495K. They did settle out of court for an undisclosed sum.


        • Scorpio Jones, III

          Here’s an update…under the internet is yo friend…the NCAA does, in fact, maintain a “catastrophic injury” fund for athletes which was started with $10 million and has been increased for inflation.


  2. Mayor of Dawgtown

    This unionization movement is soley because of the failure by the NCAA to fulfill its responsibilities to the student athlete. We need to get rid of the NCAA and get a new organization.


    • Dog in Fla

      Mayor, Mayor, Mayor, do you really think that if the NCAA magically disappeared, the replacement front organization created by and under the control of the schools would be any better? Odds are that (as someone wrote yesterday) the replacement front organization created by and under the control of the schools would be even worse than the one that exists now.

      The NCAA exists for a reason and that reason is to do the work that is beneath the dignity of the schools. After all, why should the schools put their “integrity” within the target zone when they already have the NCAA as a shield to take on incoming.


  3. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I have a friend with an orthopedic injury from college football (FCS level). His degree (paid for by his athletic scholarship) was the foundation of a career that includes a job that covers all of his health care issues – but it’s also a quality of life issue, and that’s been a source of some regret for him. To the extent he would have changed anything looking back, it’s the pressure he felt to stay on the roster in order to keep his scholarship; he feels like he made the injury worse by staying on the team. In retrospect, he would have preferred a medical hardship, but he concedes he probably would have been too proud to accept one willingly at the time.

    It’s a mess of an issue, but it’s absolutely one that is going to have to be dealt with.


  4. Bulldog Joe