Category Archives: Look For The Union Label

“It’s up to them to use it.”

Dan Wolken thinks that now is the perfect time for college athletes to form a union.

But in the midst of COVID-19, nobody could blame college athletes for wanting to protect themselves from a new disease that, while statistically unlikely to kill them, could make them very sick and potentially cause long-term issues that nobody is quite sure about yet. Ask yourself: What’s in it for them to show up next month and be part of this experiment?

At this once-in-a-lifetime circumstance, the players — not the schools — have the power to make college football happen or not and to get something significant in return.

Whether you agree or not, what I can’t figure out is how you organize a union in the midst of a pandemic.  I mean, I can see an individual player (or that player’s mama, more likely) choosing not to participate because of a perceived health risk a lot easier than I can see putting together an organization to reach out to college athletes — thousands of college athletes — who aren’t on campus and getting them to vote on a union all in time to negotiate with schools before the start of the next football season.

Am I missing something here?


Filed under Look For The Union Label

The NCAA calls a time out.

Father Emmert knows what’s best for you, kids.

Only the five wealthiest conferences could debate what a day off means for their employees … er, “amateur” athletes. Before the Power Five passed some sensible rules Friday to loosen up athletes’ time a little bit, some amendments were proposed by the adults.

USA Today reported one amendment, which overwhelmingly failed, would have allowed athletes to host a recruit on their day off provided they gave prior consent. Another amendment, which closely passed, allows life-skill activities to be held on athletes’ off days. Some player representatives at the NCAA Convention weren’t buying the amendments, recognizing how the system was trying to control days off for unpaid players who are supposedly students first.

The integrity of the day off?  Son, wait ’til you get married and are presented with your first Saturday honey-do list.  But I digress.

The NCAA actually posted this quote from a student-athlete on its web site announcing the votes, which tells you the degree of disconnect that still exists.  Control, baby!

“It’s about owning your time. Coaches need to understand that student-athletes aren’t on call at all times,” Darlington said. “This is about changing the perception of coaches: Our time is our time.”

Good luck with that.  Because… well, you know the because.

What remains untouched: The number of games and when/where they are played. If NCAA members really want to make athletes closer to traditional students, play fewer 9 p.m. games on a Tuesday night a couple hours away from your campus. But that won’t happen because this is pro sports masked as amateur.

“We all know games are the elephant in the room, especially basketball,” said one Power Five athletic director, who asked to remain anonymous.

“I agree it’s an issue,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “I think that’s a more complex, sport-by-sport set of discussions we may have in the future. I think in this first round of time demands legislation we’re focusing around the practice schedules.”

“You mean we should be the adults in the room and play fewer games?” quipped another anonymous Power Five AD. “We can try to make amends where we can that helps. But the travel for all the games really is what changes their lives. The games seem to be sacred among the athletes.”

Hey, as long as you’ve got a sense of humor about it, it’s all good, amirite?

And on a similar note, Eleven Warriors argues that if the NCAA is all about student-athlete welfare when it comes to extending the season with a second bye week, giving those young bodies more time to heal during all those weeks of play, why not go further and return to an eleven-game schedule?

As I said, as long as you’ve got a sense of humor about it, it’s all good.


Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

Don’t make ’em put you in the box, kid.

Another one of those suits where student-athletes, in this case, some former track players, sought to have a court find that athletes put in enough work at universities to be entitled to minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act was shot down.  The ruling itself wasn’t especially notable, but the rationale supporting it certainly was.

Plaintiff attorney Paul McDonald summarized the result of the decision. “Student athletes now join prisoners as the only citizens who, as a matter of law, cannot be considered employees,” he said.

He shitteth you not, good people.

… Instead, at both the district and circuit levels, they threw the case out by using a single piece of case law, Vanskike v. Peters, involving convicts. In Vanskike, an inmate at a state prison in Joliet, Ill., had asked for wages. The Seventh Circuit declined to apply the test questions in that instance because asking who benefits from an inmate’s labor was nonsensical and didn’t “capture” the “real relationship” of prisoner to prison.

So, to be clear, the best way to “capture” the relationship of athletes to their campus is to view them as detainees?

The Seventh Circuit’s contorted reasoning bears repeating. College athletes are similar to prisoners economically because the “revered tradition of amateurism” in college spanning than 100 years “defines the economic reality of the relationship between student-athletes and their schools,” the court wrote. As with inmates, asking any questions about who benefits from their work would “fail to capture the true nature of their relationship.” In other words, amateurism is as confining and defining as jail.

Then the court went one step further and declared, “Simply put, student-athletic ‘play’ is not ‘work,’ as least as the term is used in the FLSA.”

That’s something.

It turns out those folks comparing student-athletes’ conditions to life on a plantation were wrong.  According to the Seventh Circuit, they have even less rights than sharecroppers.  Go figure.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

“We weren’t negotiating.”

Next time, Minnesota, you might think about explaining the situation to your players before they decide to launch a boycott.

On a related note, I would have been more shocked if this hadn’t happened.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

Monday morning buffet

Get ‘yer feedbag on…


Filed under Academics? Academics., ACC Football, General Idiocy, Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label, Recruiting, Stats Geek!, The NCAA

Rebels with a cause, but without a clue

So it turns out the Minnesota boycott fizzled because the players were as appalled about what the details of the 80-page sexual assault investigation report disclosed as the rest of the public was.

The EOAA report, the result of the school’s federally mandated investigation of the alleged sexual assault, described in deep detail how a female student and more than 10 men were involved in an incident in the early morning of Sept. 2, hours after the Gophers’ first game of the season.

Sources said the release of the report and the players getting a chance to read the results of the investigation were the biggest factors in the decision to end the boycott. “Once they read the report,” one source said, the “narrative” of the boycott changed…

… Wolitarsky also read the team’s original boycott announcement Thursday, and he drew much of the national criticism from those who felt the players’ stance was tone-deaf toward sexual violence.

According to people close to the situation, Wolitarsky was shaken by the criticism, stressed and crying at times. He was especially torn after reading the investigation report.

“I learned a lot from these past couple days,” Wolitarsky said. “There are no right choices. There are no decisions that do not affect somebody else. This process has been extremely difficult, and I’m sure you all know how stressful this has been for everybody involved.”

Hey, this is America, land of the rush to conclusion without knowing the facts, so I can understand.  And while it’s easy to condemn the players for taking the stance they did, at least they had the sense to back off when the narrative no longer worked.  That’s more than you can say for some people.

That being said, let’s not give the adults a pass here, either.  Why the administration didn’t do a better job of heading things off by sharing some of the information in the EOAA report with the players instead of just standing by and letting the entire report get dropped into the public hamper is… well, I’d call it strange, except this is a university’s administration we’re talking about here.  It probably would have been stranger if the matter had been handled more competently from the beginning.

Then there’s the question of the head coach, who was either kept out of the information loop himself, or made a disastrous decision to side with the players despite knowing more than they did.  You can sympathize, if you like, about a man caught between a rock and a hard place, but in any event, he’s probably a dead man walking at this point.

Gophers coach Tracy Claeys will address the boycott lift when he meets the media after Sunday’s practice, a team spokesman said.

Claeys tweeted his feelings on the original boycott Thursday: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!”

Other Gophers coaches voiced their support for the players, too. Since that stance ran contrary to Kaler and Coyle’s, they were asked if those gestures might impact their future at the university.

“Coaches are in a challenging position,” Kaler said. “They need to support their players. At the same time, they need to be responsible for their actions, and there are times in which those two demands put coaches in very difficult positions. We’ll talk about that with them and try to improve both their understanding and our understanding.”

Yeah.  And if their understanding is that you belong somewhere else, they do hope you’ll understand that.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

You say you want a revolution.

It’s a tweet, and 140-character nuance is hard sometimes, but this isn’t the kind of go-ahead I’d expect to see from Tony Barnhart.

“Boycott for money or practice conditions”?  Citoyens! Aux barricades!!!


UPDATE:  By the way, even if you don’t approve of their tactics, it appears some compromise is trying to be reached.

Friday morning, Gophers team members met with a lawyer representing the 10 suspended players in downtown Minneapolis, plotting their strategy on how to move forward. Later, sources said the players were planning an evening meeting with some university regents.

Regents Darrin Rosha and Michael Hsu were seen attending the Friday night meeting.

Two sources said Kaler wasn’t invited to Friday night’s meeting but arrived anyway. The Gophers’ senior leadership group of quarterback Mitch Leidner, linebacker Jack Lynn and others helped lead the conversations with Kaler.

According to sources, one of the players’ goals was to have the hearings for the 10 suspended players moved up from January to early next week. But that goal wasn’t reached as of Friday night.

Move up the hearings date?  Dang, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it sounds like somebody read my post yesterday.


UPDATE #2:  Our short national nightmare is over.


Filed under Look For The Union Label, Media Punditry/Foibles

“… It’s important that we continue to work together as we move through this difficult time.”

You know when a school issues a statement like that, somebody’s done screwed up.

Those of you who’ve been looking for a political post to sink your teeth into here just had a developing controversy served up to you by the Minnesota football team, which announced a boycott by the entire roster of all football-related activities, including a scheduled appearance in the Holiday Bowl, unless and until the school’s president rescinds a decision to suspend ten teammates as a result of a September sexual assault allegation.

Those 10 suspended players stood directly behind seniors Drew Wolitarsky, Mitch Leidner and Duke Anyanwu — with the rest of the team arrayed behind them in support — as Wolitarsky read from a typed, two-page statement, laying out the players’ demands.

“The boycott will remain in effect until due process is followed and the suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted,” Wolitarsky said.

Wolitarsky said the players want an apology from university President Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle, adding that the players “demand that these leaders are held accountable for their actions.”

Asked if the players were worried about losing their scholarships, Wolitarsky responded: “We’re all in this together. What are they going to do, pull 120 guys off the team? They won’t have a team if that’s the case.”

If you hear an echo of what happened a year ago at Missouri, then your hearing is good.

While the players’ tactics in these two matters may be similar, the underlying cause of discontent is different.  The Missouri action was taken in response to a concern that the school administration was indifferent to minority students.  The impetus to the Minnesota boycott is a Title IX decision that came after no criminal charges were pursued.

On Tuesday, the school suspended 10 players indefinitely from all team activities, with those players facing new sanctions from the university’s office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA).

According to the players’ attorney, the EOAA recommended expulsion for Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson. The attorney said the EOAA recommended one-year suspensions from the university for Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr., and probation for Antonio Shenault.

Some of the players were directly accused by a female student in an alleged sexual assault in the early morning hours after the Gophers’ Sept. 2 season opener; the involvement of others is unclear. The school discipline comes weeks after a criminal investigation resulted in no arrests or charges. The woman’s allegations were documented through police reports and court testimony, and ultimately led to the EOAA investigation.

Wolitarsky said the team wants the players reinstated because they were punished “for things they didn’t do.” Attorney Lee Hutton, who is representing all 10 players, said he is working on their appeals.

Besides the threat to sit, the other common thread in both circumstances is player dissatisfaction with the way the administration responded to the situations.

Wolitarsky said the players were incensed after a brief meeting with Coyle following Wednesday’s practice.

“We got no answers to our questions about why these kids were suspended when they were just found [innocent] by the law,” Wolitarsky said. “He basically told us that he didn’t have answers, and that led us to believe that this is kind of unjust. He has the power to reverse this, and he won’t.”

The sticking point with the Minnesota situation appears to be one of timing.

A source tells ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that the primary issue for the boycott was the school suspending the players before a hearing based on the Title IX investigation had been held. That hearing wouldn’t have taken place until January, after the bowl game.

The source also said the Title IX investigation started at the same time as the police investigation.

Wolitarsky also asked that the Holiday Bowl committee “be patient” while the team waited for a resolution to the suspensions. The coaching staff is planning to come in on Friday, a source tells Rittenberg, but there isn’t expected to be another team practice until players get their meeting.

“We are concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard in violation of their constitutional rights,” Wolitarsky said. “We are now compelled to speak for our team and take back our program.”

So, we’ve got Missouri mixed in with a little Title IX business (certainly a hot button issue in these times) and maybe a little Duke lacrosse scandal tossed in, to boot.  I mean, what could possibly go sideways there?

Oh, and there’s one more wrinkle.  The school president claims that the head coach was the man who made the call.  The players aren’t buying that.

Kaler said in a letter Wednesday to university boosters that Claeys made the decision to suspend the players, with support from Coyle. Later in the evening, Coyle clarified that he made the decision in consultation with Claeys.

But two sources said Thursday that the decision was made above Claeys.

“Mark Coyle did it,” Wolitarsky said. When told of Kaler’s statement that Claeys made the decision, Wolitarsky said, “I don’t believe that.”

Who’s right here?  I can’t say for sure, but if the head coach was the man who pulled the trigger, this sure seems like a strange tack for him to take in the aftermath.

Gophers coach Tracy Claeys expressed support for his players, tweeting, “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!”

What a fine mess they’ve made.  The optimal solution would appear to be to rescind the suspensions and move the Title IX hearing date up to the here and now, but that may require a degree of nimbleness the Minnesota administration is incapable of performing.  Absent that, we may be about to find out what comes of players cancelling a bowl appearance.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

Friday morning buffet

A few scraps rounded up for the buffet line…


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label, Pac-12 Football, Whoa, oh, Alabama

“They don’t have rules to cover four-year, multiyear scholarships.”

This looks like it has the potential to be one big, ugly lawsuit.

Why was Vassar’s athletic scholarship revoked? The lawsuit quoted a letter purportedly from Northwestern’s deputy general counsel that said Vassar breached his July 2015 “contract” because he worked fewer than 8 hours per week and submitted fraudulent timecards to the athletic department.

Vassar appealed the decision to Northwestern’s Athletic Aid Appeals Committee. At the hearing, Northwestern submitted what it claimed to be Vassar’s fake timecards, even though somebody else’s name was crossed out on one timecard and Vassar’s first name was misspelled on another. The lawsuit showed copies of the timecards, including one that misspelled the player’s name as “Johnie.”

“One timecard said he worked on March 26, but we showed credit card payments that he made purchases in California that day while there for his father’s funeral,” Cherise said. “They knew then they had no case.”

Vassar won his appeal on May 4, 2016. The appeals committee wrote that Northwestern’s athletic department “has not provided sufficient information for a removal of your athletics scholarship,” and Vassar didn’t come to Northwestern “with the expectation that you would be doing maintenance work.”  [Emphasis added.]

Given the history, that’s spectacularly tone deaf, Northwestern.  Brilliantly played.

Cherise said the NCAA, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, told her it’s never been in a situation quite like this with an athlete in such limbo.

For once, I don’t blame Stacey Osburn for keeping quiet.


Filed under Look For The Union Label, See You In Court, The NCAA