Football conferences want no part of union

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, March 28, 2014
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen runs drills during practice Thursday, March 20, 2014 in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen runs drills during practice Thursday, March 20, 2014 in Fayetteville.

Of course the NCAA disagrees with the decision of a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that college football players at Northwestern University should be considered as employees of the university.

Such a decision would be the first step toward allowing college athletes to form a union.

Every conference is going to disagree, too.

All the major conferences are raking in the money right now because of lucrative TV packages, but as attendance across the nation drops - partly because of the economy and partly because big, flat-screen, high-definition televisions are affordable and every game is on TV - athletic directors and conference commissioners are concerned about the future.

Some schools like Arkansas even give back to the academic side (an amount that will be more than $2 million next year).

Still, expect any conclusion to be a long time coming. There will be a ton of court dates before this is settled, and there will be many arguments and questions.

Among them will be one that hasn’t been asked yet: How much can a college athlete make before he loses his amateur status?

The last quarterback to get as much scrutiny as Johnny Manziel before the NFL draft may have been Tim Tebow, but for different reasons.

Tebow’s passing - or in his case, throwing - was questioned but his off-the-field behavior was beyond reproach.

Manziel’s height - he’s just shorter than 6 feet tall - seems to be of some concern and maybe his off-the-field decision-making (although there have not been any recent incidents).

The bottom line is the guy is a winner. He probably won’t be the first quarterback drafted, but someone is going to get a fierce competitor.

He reminded me of two quarterbacks who were difference-makers, guys who could change a game with their arm or their legs.

Former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones and former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning were exciting to watch, and so is Manziel.

While on the subject of quarterbacks, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen is probably the most talked about player of spring football, although not enough information has been disseminated to cause a lot of conversation.

The opinion here is that Allen never fully recovered last season from the shoulder injury he suffered when he dove for a touchdown against Southern Miss. Allen landed hard and was almost immediately taken off the field for an X-ray.

He missed the next game at Rutgers.

Now he’s healthy, and probably equally important is that he’s learning how to be a different quarterback. He’s learning how to be more of a facilitator rather than taking on the role and responsibility of trying to make every play himself.

Under Bobby and Paul Petrino it is drilled into a quarterback’s head that he is the play-maker on every down.

Under Bret Bielema the quarterback has to make plays, just not every one of them. The offensive line and running backs have tons of responsibilities, too.

If you are looking for a deal on Arkansas Razorbacks decorations, consider the Little Rock Junior League New Member’s rummage sale from 7 a.m. until noon Saturday at Pulaski Heights Methodist.

Fans have been known to find all sorts of Hogs gear among the items that are donated to help raise funds for The Dorcas House and Access School.

Dusty Hannahs, one of the most prolif ic threepoint shooters in Arkansas high school basketball history, has asked and received his release from Texas Tech, although Tubby Smith will only release him to a school that is not in the Big 12.

Hannahs went to Texas Tech to play for Billy Gillispie, who left because of health reasons before coaching a game.

Sports, Pages 17 on 03/28/2014