First off the misinformation on this subject has been simply off the charts…To hear the Morning Joes on CNBC or the Fox News crowd tell the story, the college game as we know it is on life-support and may not survive the year. The truth of the matter is that very little has changed as far as OU and OSU fans are concerned. A second truth is that Mark Emmert has been a woeful leader and needs to go… His leading from behind attitude has in large part created this mess…
Here are some of the facts of the case as I know them…Northwestern University football players want to unionize in order to have more say in their football lives…To that end a senior quarterback with no eligibility and nothing to lose has decided to force the issue by forming a players union. He probably got one of those football degrees from Northwestern and as a result can’t find a job. Subsequently, he has decided to become a union boss. Actually, not bad work if you can get it…The Chicago Regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to support his case and will allow the Northwestern football team to vote on union membership. With this as a backdrop let’s take a look at some additional tidbits of information on the subject.
- The ruling by the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board regional office is just that, a regional office ruling which in this case means a ruling by one person.
- The ruling will be appealed by Northwestern University to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington D.C. where a panel of judges and not one regional officer will make a final decision on the matter.
- Once a final decision at the national level is made, the appeal process will begin; The final verdict will likely come from the Supreme Court. You get the picture…We may land another man on the moon before we have the outcome of this case.
- An often-overlooked item in this matter is that this ruling has no bearing on 90% of college football programs. The ruling impacts only 16 private universities that are members of Division I.
- The NCLB has no jurisdiction over public college and universities. These schools are governed by State Labor Departments…Just as importantly in Right to Work states like Oklahoma or Alabama the issue of forming a union becomes even more problematic.
- It can be assumed that the Northwestern football team members will vote to unionize. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the vote to join the union should be expected.
- While the players may have nothing to lose, Northwestern as an athletic department does. Seventy five years ago, the University of Chicago pulled a similar stunt and went from being the “monsters of the midway” to dropping football altogether.
- For the sake of argument, let’s say the NCRB allows the Northwestern football team to organize and they negotiate a paycheck from the university. Given the fact that Northwestern football makes the least of any program in the Big Ten and the fact that the profit generated from football must pay the bills for the non-revenue sports (18) on the Evanston campus, the pie from which the paychecks will be cut will be paltry in size.
- Making matters worse will be the fact that in time the other Northwestern sports will negotiate with the University for similar paychecks. Women’s sports even at private schools must honor Title IX mandates so women’s sports advocate Gloria Allred will be seeing red and then green almost immediately. Now the Northwestern paycheck list has grown from 85 football players to 285 players from various sports.
- To pay Paul, Northwestern will have to steal from Peter. This means non-revenue men’s sports will be take it on the chin as these teams will be taking road trips in yellow school busses and eating team meals at MacDonald’s. Long distance trips will be eliminated and recruiting budgets will be slashed…These programs will be on life-support as they attempt to compete against Big Ten schools that will not be operating under these mandates.
- The so-called advantage that some say will occur when Northwestern athletes start getting paid will negated almost immediately as other football programs with far larger stadiums will initiate a bidding war…
- Lost on most everyone will be the fact that the bidding war will so pronounced that the one football program that started this fight will be crushed. The gap between the haves and the have-nots of college football will get wider and wider.
- Let’s say Northwestern can squeeze blood out of its turnip and find an extra $100 dollars per month for its athletes….This will mean paychecks totaling $1200 dollars per year or $4800 dollars over four years for Wildcat players. An Alabama or Texas could quadruple that amount without even working up a sweat. Now Northwestern paltry paychecks will be compared to $400 dollar per month for UT athletes that will create $4800 dollars per year bonuses and $19,200 dollars over a four-year stretch. At this point Northwestern might as well take the cue from its sister school, the U. Chicago and replace its D-I football program with an intramural one.
- Again this issue is far from over and is certainly not an apocalyptic one. It does however serve as a warning that something needs to be done…The NCAA should take this event as a sign and get on top of the player stipend issue. In my continuing service to the NCAA l have come up with some thoughts on how this issue might be addressed.
Here you go…
- The NCAA should see this movement as a godsend…We knew this was coming and unfortunately it is here…Use this opportunity to force the player stipend issue and get ahead of the curve.
- The NCAA and college football is on the verge of a billion dollar bonanza. The 2014 college playoff system will generate millions if not billions of dollars for college football. Avoid the practice of the past that has seen only those schools and their conferences participating in the games benefitting financially from bowl games. Make the four team and championship game series different.
- Spread the money around to all Division I athletes. This will not be a popular idea with the power conferences, but then again, we are talking about saving the game here…
- Individual universities should be required to accomplish bullets 1-4 below through their general budgets. Bullet five will be paid by Playoff money. Items 6-9 should be NCAA initiatives.
o Concussion and career ending insurance policies for all players…
o Four-year scholarship guarantees for players with career ending injuries…
o Twenty year insurance policies for injuries sustained during playing days.
o Guaranteed graduate school for all graduated players regardless of how long after their playing days are over that they graduate.
o Provide all athletes regardless of sport a stipend. Stipend money should be allowed to be spent for for whatever the player chooses. A $200 monthly payment would seem appropriate. Providing pizza/ movies stipends can go a long way to derail the toxic paycheck system.
o Address the football factory and one-and-done mentality that has become prevalent on many college campuses.
o Implement player-committees at the national level to address various player issues.
The game can be saved, but not without some give on both sides of the issue. Time is of the essence however as the college game will never have another windfall like the one it is about to experience. Once the money is budgeted elsewhere and the pressure for real change has abated, the opportunity for meaningful change will be lost forever…