Hey, the “we’re not workin’ with no stinkin’ union” feeling is turning into a party. Come on down, Notre Dame!
“Notre Dame’s just not prepared to participate in any model where the athlete isn’t a student first and foremost — that’s the hallmark for us,” Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick told USA TODAY Sports after a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics meeting here during which he appeared as a panelist. “If the entire model were to move toward athletes as employees, we’d head in a different direction. Our president has been clear about that. I’m not articulating a unique position.”
Lines are drawn, NLRB. Do you really want to be the folks who killed Notre Dame’s football program?
This is silly on a number of levels. First, Swarbrick doesn’t even bother to explain how a unionized student-athlete can’t still be a student first and foremost. (Maybe he’ll have to start referring to them as athlete-students.) For example, one of the major complaints lobbed in the direction of schools is how programs routinely violate the NCAA’s 20-hour rule. Wouldn’t forcing that rule to be honored in real time be a step in the direction of first and foremost?
Second, this isn’t the first time Notre Dame has wrapped itself in the holy cloak of academics-first. For decades, it famously clung to a policy of not letting its football team go to bowl games because, in the words of a 1969 Sports Illustrated article,
The continuation of the policy probably results from a misguided notion that participation in a bowl game would make Notre Dame look like a football factory. Football, of course, has done a great deal for Notre Dame—far more than anything else. Nor is there much wrong with this, except that there happen to be those within the bright glare of the Golden Dome who do not like to admit it.
I guess they stopped worrying about that perception a while ago.
The real irony here is that there may come a time in the near future, if Jeffrey Kessler and his ilk have their way in court, when Notre Dame and its peers are going to need a union partner to enter into a collective bargaining agreement. Unless they can get Washington to grant an antitrust exemption – remember, you’re not doing it for the schools, you’re doing it for the kids, Congress – it’ll either be that, or an Ivy League packed with academic refugees.