… is that it’s not about the players wanting to get paid. That’s not to say that it doesn’t represent the biggest threat to the current order that college football faces. Just that it isn’t about school paychecks for student-athletes.
Ohr based his conclusion primarily on the enormous revenue and benefit that result from the efforts of the Northwestern football players and on the rigorous control that Wildcats coaches have over the lives of the scholarship athletes. The first thing that Ohr mentioned as he began to explain his decision was that Northwestern enjoyed football revenue of $235 million over the nine years between 2003 and 2012. Clearly impressed with that enormous income, Ohr explained somewhat unnecessarily that the university could use this “economic benefit” in “any manner it chose.” It wasn’t just the money, though, Ohr added. There is also the “great benefit” of the “immeasurable positive impact to Northwestern’s reputation a winning football team may have.” (Ohr did not mention NU’s seven-game losing streak at the end of the past season.)
Ohr also was impressed with the hour-by-hour, day-by-day control that the coaching staff has over players’ lives. He devoted more than 10 pages of his 24-page opinion to a detailed description of practice schedules, workout requirements and coaches’ supervision, including approval of living arrangements, registration of automobiles, control of the use of social media (a player must be connected to a coach), dress codes, restrictions on off-campus travel and demanding study schedules. It was the kind of control, Ohr concluded, that an employer has over an employee, not the kind of control a school has over a student.
That’s why he had so little trouble distinguishing this case from the graduate student case that Northwestern hung its hat on.
Now the NCAA wants to yell otherwise, which makes a certain sense from a PR standpoint, I suppose.
The argument for pay-for-play is much more difficult to make than the argument that players should be allowed to unionize. One of them makes people from across the country say “HEY, I HAD TO PAY FOR COLLEGE! THESE GUYS GO FOR FREE! WHY DO THEY WANT ANYTHING MORE?!?!?!” The other is about making sure people aren’t dying early because of concussions, or aren’t stricken with debt because of injuries suffered while playing games for Big State.
Actually, considering a number of responses I’ve seen in the comments here, it makes a lot of sense. The thing is, if you look at what CAPA is asking for the right to negotiate over, none of it is tied to a paycheck from a university. But a lot of it could certainly be construed as shit Nick Saban doesn’t have time for. And while that’s a real problem for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern’s AD in the short run, it’s a bigger problem for college athletics in the longer run.