HOG CALLS:

Money-hungry NCAA wants pie for itself

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter (right) speaks while College Athletes Players Association President Ramogi Huma listens during a January news conference. Northwestern players were given the OK on Wednesday to create the nation’s first union of college athletes.
Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter (right) speaks while College Athletes Players Association President Ramogi Huma listens during a January news conference. Northwestern players were given the OK on Wednesday to create the nation’s first union of college athletes.

FAYETTEVILLE - According to many athletic directors and coaches, today’s college athletes want lavish coaches’ offices, lavish locker rooms, lavish practice facilities, lavish stadiums and uniform designs more lavishly varied than the traditional school colors.

According to Northwestern University football players, athletes most prefer a piece of the pie which their labor otherwise enriches the universities’ coffers and the coffers of coaches and athletic directors.

A National Labor Relations Board regional director ruled Wednesday in Chicago that the Northwestern University football players qualify as employees and can legally form a labor union, which could considerably alter the college athletics status quo that is currently geared to exorbitant payoffs and perks to coaches and athletic directors and to an arms race mentality that leads to incessantly building bigger and better facilities.

The unfathomably lucrative TV money power conferences like the SEC amass for their members -not to mention all the money that the schools continually demand from their boosters to build the latest athletic Taj Mahal or bestow another bonus on a coach or athletic director - might have to be diverted more to benefit the labor on the field.

It will take years - Northwestern officials said they will lodge an appeal - legally to sort out what transpired Wednesday in Chicago, especially regarding the entire college athletics spectrum given Northwestern is a private school.

Legal eagles will endlessly debate whether all that applies to Northwestern could apply to public state universities like the University of Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, etc.

Nonetheless, the stage seems set for much rethinking before athletic departments begin their next round of bestowing big bonuses and building bigger facilities.

Because if college football players become legally compensated beyond their scholarship, it won’t be an eyelash’s blink before some from all the other men’s and women’s programs express that it is their legal right to be compensated better too.

An enormous can of worms opened in Chicago that is bound to worm its way throughout college athletics.

For that, college athletics has only itself to blame. Just as the exploitative greed of the American robber barons birthed the binge of labor unions in the late 1800s, the exploitative greed, arrogance and hypocrisy of the NCAA appears to have birthed a labor movement at Northwestern that is bound to become contagious.

To feed the TV monster with playoffs, college football extended its 2014 season to Jan. 12.

In reality, the season never ends. Winter off season workouts, spring football and the “voluntary” summer workouts that all know are mandatory run into the official August preseason.

That’s an immense load placed on the “student-athlete,” a term that NCAA hierarchy and athletic directors use ceaselessly but now may tend to avoid following the Northwestern fallout.

Turns out the term “student-athlete,” many articles noted Thursday, was “crafted” by the NCAA to combat paying workman’s compensation to the widow of Fort Lewis (Colo.) A&M football player Ray Dennison upon his football-related death in 1955.

So the NCAA “student-athlete” term that is perceived nobly as depicting the blending of brain and brawn is just hypocrisy approaching its 59th year.

Sports, Pages 20 on 03/29/2014

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