Hey, look — the NLRB is messing with Northwestern again.
In an unprecedented foray into college sports, the National Labor Relations Board has declared that Northwestern University must eliminate “unlawful” rules governing football players and allow them greater freedom to express themselves. The ruling, which referred to players as employees, found that they must be freely allowed to post on social media, discuss issues of their health and safety, and speak with the media.
The new rules apply to the football programs at the 17 private universities that play in the FBS, including schools such as Notre Dame, Stanford and Baylor — but not public universities. As the nation’s top labor agency, the NLRB governs relations between private employers and their employees, so it has no power over public schools. Its findings on Northwestern became public on Friday in response to an ESPN.com Freedom of Information Act request.
Here’s the reason the schools and the NCAA will be shitting bricks:
In addition to granting players greater freedoms, the NLRB ruling will offer athletes a clear path to bring their issues before an independent agency outside of the organizations that have historically governed college athletics — the universities, the conferences and the NCAA.
So while this ruling did not address compensation for athletes, someone could now file a charge with the NLRB asserting that failing to pay players constitutes an unfair labor practice. After all, if the NLRB — which is led by a five-person board and a general counsel, all appointed by the president — declared that close monitoring of social media is an unfair labor practice, it is an open question how it would view failure to pay players. Until now, the issue has been contested only in antitrust courts.
Meaning that an antitrust exemption wouldn’t save them here.
Then again, I guess they could just kick every private school out of the NCAA.
For those of you who like to insist when the circumstances suit you that schools and football student-athletes operate in a workplace environment, I have some good news: there’s a former Southern Cal player who agrees with you.
The Federal labor board just overturned its standing ruling (h/t) that denied collective bargaining rights to teaching and research assistants, the ruling that schools relied on to fight the Northwestern football players’ attempt to unionize.
The NLRB said that a previous ruling by the board — that these workers were not entitled to collective bargaining because they are students — was flawed. The NLRB ruling, 3 to 1, came in a case involving a bid by the United Auto Workers to organize graduate students at Columbia University. The decision reverses a 2004 decision — which has been the governing one until today — about a similar union drive at Brown University.
… The ruling largely rejects the fights of previous boards over whether teaching assistants should be seen primarily as students or employees. They can be both, the majority decision said. [Emphasis added.]
If college presidents’ sphincters make a sound when they tighten, then should you listen carefully, that’s what you can hear in the background. You can bet somebody is going to make another run at unionizing college football players. It’s just a matter of time.
So the P5 conferences announced with some fanfare yesterday a series of proposals to give student-athletes back some of their free time that has been steadily encroached upon over the years
in the name of amateurism because college coaches are paid ever increasing big bucks to win. They even gave the proposals a catchy name, Flex 21.
What’s interesting about the proposals themselves is how they illustrate the degree to which these kids have had their time in college taken away from them.
• No countable athletically related activities during one calendar day per week
• Travel day related to athletics participation may be considered a day off
• Travel days may not count as days off
• No countable athletically related activities during two calendar days per week outside the season.
• 14 Additional Days off. Can be used during or outside the season
• No countable athletically related activities between midnight and 5 a.m.
• 8-hour block of free time, any time between 9:00 pm to 6:00 am.
• Varies by sport
• 7-day recovery time
I’m sure many of you are prepared to jump up and loudly proclaim that this is what student-athletes bargained for when they received their scholarships, but I’m just wondering how many other college kids on scholarship have had to surrender their lives to such an extent.
In all, it’s pretty pathetic. Good thing playing D-1 football is not a job.
For all you amateurism romantics who believe nothing’s changed in the wide, wide world of college sports that justifies any demand that student-athletes deserve something more than the traditional scholarship, room and board arrangement, allow Jeremy Foley, of all people, to retort.
Jeremy Foley, who is retiring as Florida athletic director on Oct. 1, notes how much longer the seasons are then when he first got to the school in 1976. Back then, he said, there were 10 football games and now there are 12 with as many as 15 now for those who advance in the postseason. Basketball has gone from 27 games to 31 regular season games and the NCAA tournament has expanded.
It’s not just that, of course, and the linked article touches on many other time demands that have cropped up as the money being paid to schools has ratched up: mandatory summer practice hours, weird TV times, to name just a couple.
The point is that the world has changed and the way these kids are being compensated for their time and effort needs to change, as well.
It’s funny, but I often find the comments from student-athletes about the major issues facing college athletics to be far more thoughtful than those coming from the people running college athletics.
Now that I think about it, I should probably come up with a more accurate adjective than funny.
To some extent, this…
… explains this.
A chaotic week that saw Baylor not only lose coach Art Briles, but also its AD and president in the wake of a sexual assault scandal, has decimated the Bears’ 2017 recruiting class, and seven freshmen from Baylor’s 2016 class have asked, or plan to ask, for releases from their scholarships, according to an ESPN report.
On Wednesday night FOX Sports spoke to Collis Cobb, the father of one of those seven players, Parrish Cobb, a highly regarded cornerback. The elder Cobb told FOX that they filed to get his son’s release from his LOI on Saturday, two days after Briles was let go, and someone in Baylor’s compliance office told him they weren’t willing to do it. Baylor has a 30-day deadline to respond to each recruit’s request for a release and without that release, the recruit is not allowed to have any contact with another school. [Emphasis added.]
Could you possibly be more tone deaf if you tried?
On Wednesday Collis Cobb said he got a visit from Jim Grobe, Baylor’s new acting head coach, and three other staffers who visited his home in Waco to try to convince them to stick with Baylor. The elder Cobb said it was a “good visit, but we let them know my son wants to pursue other options. His mind is made up.”
The Cobbs’ biggest concern is the uncertainty around Baylor. “Right now, we don’t know the status of Baylor’s football program,” Collis Cobb said. “We don’t know if (the current coaching staff) is going be there through 2017 or 2018. No one can give us that information.”
Gee, I wonder why.
“All I can say is, it’s in Baylor’s hands now,” Collis Cobb said. “I’m hoping they want to do right by these kids.”
That’s been Baylor’s mantra all along, so I’m sure this will work out well.
Meanwhile, upon hearing the news, Roquan Smith nods his head sagely and mutters, “could have told you so…”