Will football players unionize?


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…






Enough already with the one-and-done system…


After watching the OU overtime loss to North Dakota State, I realized that while Lon Kruger may be a really good coach, he is no Miracle Max.   For OU to beat a quality team without any semblance of an inside game was not going to happen.    At least the early exit came at the hands of bunch of corn-fed farm boys from North Dakota and not a one-and-done basketball factory.     

We should have seen this one coming as Kruger’s charges this year overachieved time and time again.  Fortunately for me, I was not one of those fans that drank the Big 12 Kool-Aide supplied by the national media.   Basically, this was the same Big 12 that we have seen in recent years.  The one-and-done era has only made matters worse for this league. 

Possibly we can see some light at the end of the one-and-done tunnel as neither of the worst Big 12 offenders, KU, and OSU made it out of the round of 34.  Adding to the Big 12 misery and to the OU delight was the embarrassing performance of the worst one-and-done offender of them all, OSU.  Travis Smart makes no bones about his penchant for promising high school players a short stint in Stillwater on their way to the NBA.   No need unpacking your bags, he will tell his recruits…

High school phenoms are sold on the idea of spending a fall semester satisfying the NCAA minimum of 6 credit hours.   That’s right we are talking about two hours of class attendance three days a week.  All that is required of these guys is to show up occasionally to turn in assignments provided for them by academic tutors.  In order to stay eligible for the spring semester, the player will enroll in the required 12 credit hours and complete the required 6 credit hours.

As NBA draft declaration day approaches attendance in the two required classes will become more and more sporadic.  If for some reason the player decides to hang around an extra year, he will continue to play the credit juggling act and complete his second year with the equivalent of one semester of college credit toward a college degree.  That’s right a player like Marcus Smart who has hung around Stillwater for two years can make his way to the NBA with less than 13% of the necessary credits for a college degree.  

I believe the one-and-done college game is the worst joke to be played on college sports in the 100 plus years of the NCAA.   The NCAA got its start back in 1906 as the football game had become so reckless that deaths from the game had become common place.  (College Football by John Sayle Watterson)  College presidents stepped in and created the NCAA to clean up the sport.    While no deaths have been reported as a result of the one-and-done fiasco, I suggest that the integrity of the sport is on life support.   College Presidents who should care about the academic side of the college game should place pressure on the NCAA to do something.   

Make no mistake about it; the one-and-done mess is not the fault of the NBA.   NBA owners are in the business to make money, pure and simple.   The fact that the NCAA prostitutes itself out to the owners is not the NBA’s problem.   There is a solution to this hypocrisy.  Major League baseball and the NFL are in business to make money as well, but these organizations have found a way to do so without destroying their game.   Football players must wait three years to enter the NFL.   Baseball has a similar rule with one alteration.    A high school player can sign a pro contract out of high school or enter the college of their choice and wait until after their junior year to go pro.  Not only are these pro sports flourishing, but so are their college counterparts. 

This is not rocket science… Why would college presidents allow this to happen?  Unfortunately, far too often, these guys are politicians and not academicians.   Let’s get real, the NCAA could step in and correct this situation in a heartbeat.   The pro game needs the college game and both can benefit by a common sense approach.  Let’s reach a compromise and use the baseball plan. 

For lottery picks like LeBron entering the NBA straight out of high school makes perfect sense.   For other players who can use the money or those who are not cut out for the academic grind of college life, signing up to play in the NBA farm system or developmental league or in Europe would make perfect sense.  For players wanting to pursue an education, committing to a three year college plan should be required.  These players would have the best of both worlds, three years toward a college degree and an opportunity to develop and enhance their game.

While the baseball template is not a perfect one, it is light years ahead of the current one-and-done system.  Hopefully someone at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis is listening.   The game that Naismith built deserves better….





Travis Ford = The Perfect OSU Coach…



OSU President and CEO T. Boone Pickens should have fired his head basketball coach on the spot after the Cowboys laid a big-time egg in Ames yesterday. The miss-management by Travis Ford at the end of the OSU-Iowa State game was simply criminal.  The Cowboys simply snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in that one.   While it has become obvious over the years and particularly throughout this season that Travis Ford is an incredibly weak coach, the fiasco at the end of the Iowa State game on Saturday should seal the deal for Pickens. 


Anyone that knows anything about the college game realizes that with less than ten seconds left on the clock and a three point lead, the team ahead on the scoreboard should foul a player from the opposing team.  The worst case scenario in a situation like this one would be that the other team will hit both foul shots and the team with the lead will get the ball back with the lead and run out the clock. In other words, no harm no foul…What should never be done is what happened.  The Cowboys allowed the Cyclone guard to dribble the length of the court and hit a three pointer that sent the game into overtime. 


Adding salt to this wound is the fact that when faced with this same situation in overtime Iowa State Coach Fred Holberg did everything right.   Up by three points with 10 seconds left in overtime, Holberg had his player foul the OSU player and lo and behold the Cyclones ended up winning the game.


As we rewind the tape a few years, Pickens hired the up and coming Travis Ford and has over time made him a multi-millionaire.   Fortunately for OU fans Pickens tends to hire coaches he can control.   He would never be interested in hiring a Lon Kruger type coach that would want to call his own shots.  It is a good thing… If Pickens propped up his high priced one-and-done recruits with real coaching the rest of the league would be in real trouble.  


OU fans have no reason to worry…T. Boone Pickens bears a striking resemblance to his counterpart, the Owner and CEO of the other Cowboys.   These guys simply can’t help themselves.   They assume that owning a program or a team means that they have the right to run things their way.  These ego-maniacs hand pick their coaches and then give them their marching orders.   Bono-fide coaches with outstanding pedigrees are not going to take orders from oil patch tycoons.    


As long as Pickens follows the Jerry Jones template, OSU will continue to underachieve.  I guess this why they call them Aggies…


Early Start on Recruiting – Class of 2015 Rankings…



It is has been a while since an end of season stretch meant so much to the Sooner program as the one at the end of the 2013 season did.  The truth of this matter the end of season surge has produced an explosion on the recruiting trail for the Sooners as evidenced by the end of season recruiting haul and got the start of the 2015 recruiting season.  The end of seasons wins over OSU and Alabama allowed the Sooners to return to dominance in the homes of in-state recruits and the opportunity to compete for prospects nationally. 


This may be the fastest start ever for the Sooners.  In years past the Sooners have bided their time by hanging back in the pack until the last few weeks before signing day.  Now the Sooners are using junior days to wrap up commitments a year early.  If the Sooners can keep this momentum going through the spring and summer year the Class of 2015 may be a special one for Sooner fans. 


Below are today Class of 2015 Scout.com rankings as of March 8th.   The number of commitments is in parenthesis…Big 12 teams are in bold print. 


  1. Texas A&M (7)
  2. Alabama (8)
  3. LSU (9)
  4. West Virginia (9)
  5. Georgia (5)
  6. Arkansas (5)
  7. Penn State (7)
  8. Florida State (7)
  9. Oklahoma (5)
  10. Clemson (8)
  11. TCU (8)
  12. Nebraska (6)
  13. Tennessee (7)
  14. Texas (7)
  15. Notre Dame (3)
  16. Michigan (4)
  17. USC (3)
  18. UCLA (3)
  19. Iowa (4)
  20. Baylor (3)
  21. Mississippi State (9)
  22. Michigan State (3)
  23. Stanford (2)
  24. BYU (4)
  25. Ohio State (3)


Other Big 12 teams…


32.  Texas Tech (2)

56.  Kansas State (1)

56.  Oklahoma State (1)

NR   Iowa State

NR   Kansas