College Football on the Brink

Friday, April 25, 2014

Northwestern football players vote today on whether they want to unionize, while the NCAA met yesterday to make some key decisions about the future structure of big-money sports. We discuss a key moment for the future of college athletics with Jeremy Fowler, College Football Insider for


Jeremy Fowler

Comments [25]

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Apr. 26 2014 08:30 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

I was a college wrestler in the 1980's. We certainly weren't a revenue generating sport, so I can't think of any immediate benefit that unionization would have brought.

So, would I have voted for a union? Of course. You'd have to be an idiot or masochist to vote to deny yourself the right to vote. Why are we even having this conversation?

Apr. 25 2014 11:32 PM
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Apr. 25 2014 02:32 PM

Notwithstanding the obvious merit of the movement, the players will never unionize, for several reasons. First, they are largely grateful for the chance to live out their dream, so by and large they feel loyalty to the schools. Some might be disgruntled but the ill repute unions have been covered in over the last 30 years makes the idea even less appealing.

Second, more important, they are transients, not "permanent" employees, so they are by definition even more expendable and vulnerable. Let's face it, hardly any organization wants its workforce unionized (Volkswagen excepted), and the players must realize that somewhere during their presumed 4-year "job" their skills might be called into question, and they might be "laid off," which does happen now when they stop performing and lose their scholarship. In at least some marginal cases any management will tend to rid itself of the troublemakers and keep the docile ones, and the student-athletes know that full well.

The litigation around a wrongful-discharge suit against a Big Ten university would be a sight to behold, and then if the player wins, what does he get, restitution to his "job," damages, how much, and what if he is already working for a major league? Does the players' union want to defend a member the alumni don't want to see on the field again?

It's not going to happen.

Apr. 25 2014 12:04 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

One thing I like about this show is the opportunity to learn from my fellow listeners.

I'm not certain that the players necessarily need to form a union, but the schools should provide certain benefits to them if they are scholarship players - and even if they are not scholarship players. All players playing on behalf of any school should, without question, have all medical bills for injuries resulting from practice and play on behalf of the school covered. This should not be an issue.

As to whether they should be "paid" for their services, scholarship is a form of payment, but does that then mean that you pay non-scholarship players in cash because they do not have the scholarship. Would there be equalization of the amounts players receive based on scholarship/non-scholarship status? How much should players be paid? Would payment be based on how much the school receives per season or whether they win a championship? And do players really need a union to negotiate this or can someone with a modicum of common sense do the numbers and pay each player a fair amount?

But the first question is whether playing sports at any school is a paying proposition, and that cannot be determined simply by unionizing.

So there's really more that goes into this than the union/non-union question.

I do agree with the callers who say that if players are to be compensated, the compensation must be linked with graduation and should be put into some kind of trust fund so inexperienced, recent college grads don't blow it all on drugs.

Apr. 25 2014 10:30 AM
Diana from The Bronx

Just wanted to weigh in as a female varsity player from an Ivy League college - I'm in favor of letting student athletes unionize - especially the ones who must spend a certain number of hours training, traveling and playing and are not allowed or able to take work-study or private sector jobs while at school -such students may have $0 dispensable income!

Apr. 25 2014 10:29 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Players not only do not get paid, they can't even make a living off their likeness.

Money making college sports programs (football/basketball) should be spun off and made a 2nd tier professional league.

Apr. 25 2014 10:28 AM

Amen! There is no reason for scholastic institutions to have sports programs, but to generate revenue. (And that is only true of a small group of schools; most schools have _absolutely no reason_ to have a sports program.)

Apr. 25 2014 10:26 AM
Nick from UWS

@Mr Bad From NYC: Bad....gotta keep whining! Gotta keep the issues front and center. What the hell else are these boards for? Regards.

Apr. 25 2014 10:24 AM
Steve from New York, NY

Please mention to the callers who play field hockey, lacrosse, gymnastics, and the like that it's FOOTBALL and BASKETBALL revenue that finances all of the other sports programs at major universities. What is most troubling is that the NCAA is a de facto cartel that is not accountable to any other regulatory branch. These good ole boys rake in BILLIONS with TV contracts and merchandising and somehow that doesn't seem to concern anyone except these athletes who often can't even afford to buy a sandwich after a game.

Apr. 25 2014 10:24 AM
jf from REALITY


Apr. 25 2014 10:23 AM

Shouldn't the schools also have programs that allow the players in big money sports to complete their degrees if 1) they are injured while at the school & 2) if they don't get or lose pro jobs???

but we also need more scholarship $$ in all areas, STEM, liberal arts etc. & more $$$ for basic science research unhampered by Corporate donation/sponsorship golden handcuffs (patents & other IP & restricted peer disclosure.

Apr. 25 2014 10:20 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Nick from UWS

Ugh, stop whining. Talk about beating a dead horse. Yeah, college SHOULD be a lot of things but mostly it's where morons binge drink and "hook-up". What's next on your complaint list? Corrupt politicians, lawyers or sleazy salesman? You're right on top of this stuff. The fact is that college sports exist for the purpose of making money for the college and supplying pro sports organizations a de facto amateur league they can draw from. The players deserve a share. But you're right, if the colleges/universities don't like it they can cancel their sports programs. Do it right or not at all.

Apr. 25 2014 10:19 AM

I disagree with Melissa.

Some of us HAD to work while we were going to college. I didn't have athletic prowess, so I was stuck with all sorts of extremely low paying study jobs - injecting chickens, writing up class notes, working in a pizza joint, bank teller, cook in a restaurant, and being a TA. The TA work was mandatory and unpaid and really grueling. At that time, my total income for the year was $7000 - I literally ate beans and rice every single day. Had I been paid I might have eaten a little better.

I think it is perfectly fine for students to be able to earn money while they are attending college so they don't end up with a ridiculous amount of debt by the time they graduate.

Apr. 25 2014 10:19 AM

How is the coach of the Northwestern football team coming out against unionization, talking about "the facts" any different than those politicians in Tennessee intimidating union voters in the way they did? "New contracts won't come to Tennessee, etc...".
Is this vote a secret ballot? Can these kids vote without worrying about the coach/school administration knowing how they voted?

Apr. 25 2014 10:16 AM

Most of the long term injuries (knee, shoulder and hip replacements) in my circle of friends, occurred in high school footbal - not at the college level. Should high school football players unionize?

Apr. 25 2014 10:15 AM

So what happens when a paid college athlete gets a big fat pro contract. Could/should the Univ get a finders fee?

Apr. 25 2014 10:15 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Allow me:
Thankfully, babies will soon be developed in factories and college sports will become a dying relic from the past. As Aldous Huxley prophesied in Brave New World some 70 years ago.

Apr. 25 2014 10:14 AM

My opinion is that the NLRB ruling doesn't go far enough...Marquis athletes bring in so much money for their school that they are being robbed of the value that they helped to create and the only ones that seem to benefit are the coaching staff.

Moneyball sports scholarships - football, basketball, baseball and in some cases soccer - ought to be financed out of alumni funds not the general athletic fund. The actual sports and athletes would vary by school. This would do two things, free up money for scholarships for other worthwhile sports and remove some of the Title IX considerations.

Apr. 25 2014 10:14 AM
Nick from UWS

Why are there never discussions about the funding of higher math and science and biotech programs? Why is there always discussion about these stupid issues at universities; talking about guys throwing a ball back and forth as if it was the most important activity in the country?

Apr. 25 2014 10:11 AM

Across the board, I think college students and interns should be paid. Not all kids have parents wealthy enough to support them in their college years.

I like caller's idea of the deferring end of service pay for athletes since they have the potential to make tons more money than some science genius who is slaving away in a lab. I wish our country had a more balanced approach to valuing academic skills as highly as skills that lead to "celebrity". Or perhaps I wish "celebrity" returned to values that were less superficial.

No way that we could have unionized the women's Rugby Team I played on during college. No one watched women's sports in that day and age, let alone rugby.

Apr. 25 2014 10:10 AM

My cousin was on a team that won the NCAA Final Four the year he graduated. He drove home in a new Cadillac.

Apr. 25 2014 10:09 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This should be mandatory for all college athletes and at the very least they deserve profit sharing and lifelong medical care for injuries they suffer while playing.

Apr. 25 2014 10:08 AM
Nick from UWS

Jesus, who cares. I thought colleges were supposed to be places of higher learning? Since when do colleges have labor negotiations with students? To do so would be the tacit admission from universities that their educational programs are merely fronts for the their true money-raking business of college organized sports which is all they seem to care about. Between this and the rape of students with the student loan business, colleges are such a complete crock.

Apr. 25 2014 10:06 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

"Pole watching" in college football? Sounds scandalous!

Apr. 25 2014 10:04 AM

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