It’s About Time for College Athletes
Who would have thought it would begin at Northwestern? No exactly a hotbed f0r college football but obviously a school with intelligent, independent thinkers. What began at the school just outside of Chicago is a football union. The football team announced last week that they are forming a union. They made it clear that they have no ill feelings towards their school, but they believe that all college athletes need a “seat at the table” when it comes to college sports. Their premise, and I totally agree, is that the NCAA is a dictatorship that sets all the rules and regulations that involve student-athletes, without any input from those student-athletes.
It’s not that the players are looking to get paid, which is what everyone thinks. But it can’t go ignored any longer that college coaches, administrators, conference leaders, not to mention television and radio networks and advertisers, are getting filthy rich off of the work of the players. The NCAA has countered that the student-athlete isn’t an employee and therefore doesn’t fall under the National Labor Relations Act. You know that they’ve been anticipating this for years. Why? Because they know exactly what they’ve been getting away with. The fans, alumni, advertisers all pour money into college coffers to watch the athletes compete, not to watch Nick Saban coach. Yet it’s Saban who makes $6 million a year and the players get a “scholarship.” There is no money for doing what normal students do, like going out to dinner or a movie and there are rules against scholarship athletes working during the school year so there is no way to earn pocket money. Maybe seems like a small thing unless you’re one of the thousands of players who come from an impoverished background and mom and dad don’t have money to send.
When you break it down, the school basically puts a chair in an already existing classroom, allow the athlete eat food that’s already prepared for other students and sleep in beds that are already there. The school doesn’t build new facilities for the players. The cost of that scholarship is whatever the school says it’s worth. And it’s nowhere near millions of dollars. Johnny Manziel got in trouble for allegedly signing jerseys and footballs for money after he won the Heisman Trophy. The NCAA made him sit out the first half of the first game this past season as punishment. Meanwhile Texas A&M had Johnny sign helmets and jerseys that they auctioned off for tens of thousands of dollars of scholarships during the year. People weren’t shelling out big bucks because the jersey said A&M across the front, they did it because it said Manziel across the back. But Johnny doesn’t get one penny off of his name. That’s the NCAA way — we’re the adults, you’re the children so we make the rules and you live by them “because we said so.”
Northwestern’s football team wants their union to cross the country and give all the players a voice, not just in revenue but health insurance and academic issues. What happens to the former player who has injuries that linger for years after his eligibility is expired? Just like we’ve seen in the NFL, former players can have devastating, long lasting injuries that they have to pay for. Shouldn’t the NCAA care about them? The union is a way for the student athletes to be heard, the NCAA doesn’t want it because they have a gravy train right now…earning billions of dollars and paying virtually nothing for the labor. Change is coming and it’s about time.