Category Archives: Look For The Union Label

“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.

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

The sound of ice cracking beneath the NCAA’s feet

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.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label

I got ‘yer workplace right here.

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.

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

The NLRB changes its mind.

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.

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Kids these days. When I was in school…

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.

FLEX 21

In Season
Current Rule
• No countable athletically related activities during one calendar day per week
• Travel day related to athletics participation may be considered a day off

Proposed Changes
• Travel days may not count as days off

Academic Year
Current Rule
• No countable athletically related activities during two calendar days per week outside the season.

Proposed Changes
• 14 Additional Days off. Can be used during or outside the season

Overnight
Current Rule
• No countable athletically related activities between midnight and 5 a.m.

Proposed Changes
• 8-hour block of free time, any time between 9:00 pm to 6:00 am.

Postseason
Current Rule
• Varies by sport

Proposed Changes
• 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.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label

Same as it ever was.

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.

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Filed under Look For The Union Label

The adults in the room

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.

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